Former Trump Organisation executive's role in elite Scottish Government group under scrutiny

A Scottish Government agency has been urged to immediately scrap a former senior Trump Organisation executive’s membership of an exclusive Scottish Government business network.

Sunday, 4th October 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th October 2020, 11:11 am
George Sorial, centre, at a 2012 Scottish Parliament inquiry into renewable energy, alongside Donald Trump and his eldest son. Picture: Jane Barlow
George Sorial, centre, at a 2012 Scottish Parliament inquiry into renewable energy, alongside Donald Trump and his eldest son. Picture: Jane Barlow

George Sorial, who until last year worked as an executive vice-president and chief compliance counsel at Donald Trump’s family firm, has been prominently advertising his role in the GlobalScot network on his website, while assisting a controversial multi-billion pound legal action against the Chinese government for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scottish Enterprise, which manages the ambassadorial-style body set up to bolster business links and inward investment, said that it has had no dealings with Sorial in more than two years, and considered his membership to be “inactive.”

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After being presented by Scotland on Sunday with details of Sorial’s involvement in the lawsuit against China, the Scottish Government agency said it was “looking into his membership.”

Sorial includes a prominent GlobalScot logo as a list of his credentials, but his membership has been inactive for years.

One MSP has called on the public body to immediately terminate Sorial’s “unjustified” membership of the international network.

Since leaving the Trump Organisation last April, Sorial has become a partner at Lucas Compton, a Washington DC-based advocacy and advisory firm. He has also set up his own consultancy company, STMS Consulting Partners LLC.

Under a section of his company’s website listing his education and credentials, Sorial includes a large GlobalScot logo, noting that he has been a member since 2007, having been invited to join by former First Minister Alex Salmond.

However, Scottish Enterprise confirmed that his membership had been inactive since early 2018. Sorial told Scotland on Sunday that he was not aware that was the case, as he had not been notified by the quango.

Records filed with the Lobbying Disclosure Act database of the US Senate show Sorial’s firm has lobbied both the White House and the US State Department on behalf of the US-based Berman law group, which has filed the lawsuit in Florida against the Chinese Communist Party.

The lawsuit alleges that Beijing knew about the serious threat posed by Covid-19 and failed to warn the rest of the world in a timely manner. A media briefing prepared by Lucas Compson and Berman lists Sorial as among those senior figures involved in the lawsuit.

In April, Sorial, whose mother, like Trump’s, hailed from Lewis, told the Washington Post that he and senior White House officials had discussed limiting China’s sovereign immunity. Such a step could allow the US government or victims to sue China for damages.

In a series of posts on the LinkedIn social network, Sorial accused the Chinese Communist Party of having unleashed “terror on their own people” and the world, and said it was “time to hold China accountable” for the coronavirus crisis.

The lawyer, who served as Trump’s right hand man in Scotland, became a member of GlobalScot while playing a leading role in the development of the US president’s Aberdeenshire golf resort.

Indeed, he was one of several senior figures at the Trump Organisation to join the network, which was launched in 2001 and is a partnership between Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International.

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Trump himself became a member in 2006 at the invitation of former First Minister Jack McConnell, only to have his status revoked in 2015 by the Scottish Government in the wake of his call for Muslims to be banned from entering the US.

In the aftermath of that decision, which was followed by a Supreme Court ruling throwing out the 74-year-old’s attempts to prevent the construction of an offshore wind farm by his Aberdeenshire resort, Sorial issued a statement condemning First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“People in her position should be much smarter,” he said at the time. “Her actions over the past week demonstrate a fundamental lack of knowledge about how to govern.”

The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr, an executive vice-president at the family firm, was appointed to the international network by Salmond in 2010, but his membership expired in 2016 after a period of inactivity.

Andy Wightman, the Scottish Green MSP who led the calls for Trump’s expulsion from the network, said Sorial should also now be thrown out.

He explained: “When I asked in 2012 whether and why George Sorial was a GlobalScot, I was told that he was the representative of Donald Trump. Whether he was or wasn’t, he was appointed due to his involvement with Mr Trump’s golf course development.

“When Mr Trump was eventually sacked as a GlobalScot, Mr Sorial should have been removed as well. His continued membership of the network is unjustified and should be terminated immediately.”

Sorial told Scotland on Sunday: “I was not aware that my membership to the GlobalScot network was inactive as no one ever notified me about that. I will amend my website accordingly and appreciate that you brought this to my attention.”

Asked if he thought it appropriate to represent Scotland while participating in his legal action against China, and what he hoped to achieve with the Berman lawsuit, he added: “I have no comment and can’t discuss my work on behalf of the Berman law group or any other client.”

A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said: “Mr Sorial has not engaged with the GlobalScot team in over two years and has not been promoted as a member of the network in that time.

“While he was removed from the GlobalScot website over a year ago, we are now looking into his membership and reviewing our processes around inactive members in light of these developments.”

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