“It was mainly propaganda. They’re simply pushing their deal, and I don’t care,” mentioned Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who exited the room early as Norman met with the Republican Examine Committee, the Home GOP’s largest caucus. “Actually, this shouldn’t be taking over our time. It is a conservative group, and we should be coping with what we’ve received to cope with in our nation, not apprehensive a few bunch of Saudis, a bunch of billionaire oil folks. So I’m out.”

The Saudi authorities’s foray into the golf world stoked controversy not only for its impression on the long-running PGA Tour, but additionally as a result of it drew allegations of “sportswashing” — the follow of utilizing skilled sports activities to restore one’s repute. Even earlier than this 12 months’s LIV sequence formally started, lawmakers from each events have been criticizing it as an effort by Saudi Arabia’s hardline leaders to whitewash their nation’s abysmal human-rights report.

A cohort of households who misplaced family members on Sept. 11, 2001, has publicly urged Trump to not host LIV tournaments at his nation golf equipment. They’ve additionally appealed on to golfers themselves, asking them to not be part of LIV.

Talking with reporters after the GOP assembly, Norman indicated that the suggestions he received behind closed doorways was all constructive. Jonathan Grella, a spokesperson for LIV, dismissed the criticisms and mentioned Norman’s “message about the advantages of competitors was very nicely acquired, even when a pair members of Congress say in any other case.”

That’s not fully correct.

“Don’t are available in right here and act such as you’re doing a little great point whilst you’re pimping a billion {dollars} of Saudi Arabian cash,” lamented Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has been outspoken about LIV. “You enriched your self on the again of the [PGA] Tour. You bought wealthy utilizing the Tour to take action.”

Lawmakers additionally used the assembly to push for LIV and its benefactors to register as overseas brokers, pointing to Trump’s personal insistence that the enterprise itself is nice PR for the Saudi kingdom. A number of attendees informed POLITICO that Norman didn’t try to clarify away or defend the Saudis’ actions. Roy, a stalwart conservative, even criticized Trump’s involvement, which incorporates internet hosting LIV tournaments at a number of of his programs.

“The previous president’s speaking about there being a billion {dollars} of PR for Saudi Arabia. However that is sort of ignoring the 9/11 households who’re gathering exterior of Bedminster saying, hey, we’re within the shadows of the previous World Commerce Middle, and right here we’re selling the dominion of Saudi Arabia at a golf course right here in New Jersey. I believe that’s improper,” Roy mentioned, referring to Trump’s golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., which hosted a LIV occasion in late July.

Norman has tried to handle these considerations, with little success. Earlier this 12 months he admitted that the golfers are motivated by the additional money to affix LIV, and later confronted criticism when he described the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as merely a “mistake.” (U.S. intelligence businesses have concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s brutal homicide and dismembering in 2018.)

When requested about foreign-agent registration, Norman informed reporters: “We’re a business operation, so we’re right here simply to develop the sport of golf.” He described LIV as “a drive for good for the sport of golf” and denied that any of his exchanges with lawmakers have been heated.

“We’re giving the gamers one other platform as impartial contractors to play,” Norman mentioned. “It’s nice to have an open debate.”

Roy and Norman had a cordial dialog after the assembly, in line with an individual acquainted with the alternate who spoke on situation of anonymity. Roy mentioned it was a distinction of opinion, and Norman provided to fulfill with him one-on-one, the individual added.

Some lawmakers left the Republican Examine Committee assembly with an open thoughts. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), who has no relation to the LIV CEO, mentioned the federal government must be staying out of the dispute between the PGA and LIV.

“My query was, what’s improper with competitors?” the South Carolinian mentioned. “The competitors’s coming from Saudi Arabia — now, is Saudi Arabia a companion you need to be concerned with? You’ve received that aspect of it as nicely. … Legislatively, we are able to’t resolve the issue.”

Along with his assembly with the Republican Examine Committee, Norman met earlier Wednesday with Home Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), per an individual acquainted with the assembly. He additionally sat down with Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), who leads the congressional golf caucus, and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Norman recently visited The Greenbrier resort in Manchin’s dwelling state and is eyeing it as a possible LIV host for subsequent 12 months.

And on Tuesday evening, Rep. Mike Carey (R-Ohio) hosted Norman for dinner on the ritzy Capital Grille close to the Capitol.

LIV’s spokesperson, Grella, mentioned the purpose of Norman’s Capitol Hill conferences was “to teach members on LIV’s enterprise mannequin and counter the [PGA] Tour’s anti-competitive efforts” — a serious focus within the ongoing battle between the 2 organizations. The Justice Division has reportedly begun investigating the PGA Tour for antitrust violations, and a few lawmakers have cast doubt on such a probe.

However for many lawmakers, human rights is the highest concern. After Khashoggi’s homicide, Saudi Arabia’s leaders fell out of favor with members of Congress from each events, even because the Trump administration sought to deepen safety ties with the dominion and work with it to counter Iran.

“If we get to the purpose the place we are saying that money issues, the greenback drives all of it — I don’t assume that’s what this nation’s all about,” mentioned Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has described LIV as a sportswashing effort. “We’ve at all times mentioned that we’re going to be about human rights.”

Jordain Carney, Daniel Lippman and Hailey Fuchs contributed to this report.

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