Najib administration spent RM1.2m in Trump’s Washington hotel in 2017, partisan US report shows

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 5 — Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s government was among those that spent significantly at hotels belonging to ex-US president Donald Trump to allegedly secure meetings with the latter, according to information released by United States’ Democrats on the House Oversight Committee

According to a 156-page report released by the group, the Najib administration spent in total US$248,962 (RM1.15 million) for accommodations at Trump’s hotels, putting Malaysia among 20 countries that gave millions to Trump via his businesses in the first two years of his presidency.

The report released on Thursday said Trump had hosted Najib for an official visit at the White House September 2017, and has renewed the suspicion that the meeting was a result of the spending.

It highlighted that the lavish spending by Najib and his entourage in September 2017 came when the US Justice Department (DOJ) was investigating him for his role in the theft of billions of dollars from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state investment firm.

The report, supported by documents provided to House investigators by accounting firm Mazars USA, said Najib and the Malaysian delegates spent US$248,962 on room charges and amenities from September 7 to 15, and again on September 27 in 2017, when Trump hosted Najib on an official state visit.

The report said Najib stayed in the presidential suite at a cost of US$10,000 per night. There were also additional charges including US$750 for “furniture movement” (dressing room) for the Malaysian Embassy, US$1,500 for a personal trainer, and thousands more for a butler assist in serving multiple meals.

The hotel also charged the US Secret Service more than US$9,000 for rooms for the detail protecting Najib’s delegation. The report noted that the room rate of US$650 per night was “more than double the government’s US$231 per diem lodging rate for Washington.”

“By the time the two leaders met, the DOJ’s investigation into 1MDB — which would become its ‘largest ever kleptocracy’ case — had been underway for more than a year,” read the report.

The DOJ later found that US$4.5 billion had been stolen from the 1MDB.

Against the backdrop of the 1MDB scandal, the report said Najib used the September 2017 meeting with Trump to paint a positive picture of Malaysia’s investments in the United States. However, both leaders were said to have avoided any mention of the then-pending DOJ investigation.

Najib visited Washington less than a year before the watershed May 2018 general election. His Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition failed to retain power and lost to the then Opposition Pakatan Harapan (PH) pact.

The report also noted an American lobbyist, linked to 1MDB, spending on behalf of Malaysia.

Elliott Broidy, a former top fundraiser for Trump who was lobbying the former president’s administration on behalf of Malaysian interests as an unregistered foreign agent, also stayed at the Trump International Hotel.

The report said Broidy had stayed four times during September 2017, including four nights during a Malaysian delegation’s visit in mid-September, and again on the night of September 27, when a Malaysian delegation again stayed at the hotel.

In total, Broidy was charged US$5,345 for rooms at the Trump International Hotel during September 2017. His associate, Nickie Lum Davis, who was working with him on behalf of Malaysia, also stayed at the hotel during part of the Malaysian delegation’s mid-September stay and was charged $1,155 for her stay.

The report said Broidy, who pled guilty to conspiring in connection with his undisclosed lobbying work for Malaysia in October 2020, was also being paid millions by Malaysian fugitive financier Low Taek Jho or Jho Low, to lobby the Trump Administration to close the investigation into 1MDB.

In October 2017, Najib, replying to questions in Parliament, said he did not pay for the invitation from Trump.

He also dismissed the significance of where he had stayed during the visit, after then Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail asked why he had not been invited to stay at the president’s guest house, unlike Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who was accorded the privilege during an official visit earlier that year.

The Democrats on the House Oversight Committee alleged in its report that Trump received US$7.8 million during the first two years of his presidency from payments to four of his properties.

This included the Trump International Hotel in Washington along with a Las Vegas hotel and two properties in New York — the Trump Town on Fifth Avenue and the Trump World Tower at United Nations Plaza.

“As a result, the US$7.8 million detailed in this report, based on records for just two years of his presidency, involving four of his more than 500 businesses, is likely just a small fraction of the payments former President Trump received from foreign governments while in office, in violation of the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause,” read a media release accompanying the report.

Najib is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence after being convicted on all charges in one of several trials related to the 1MDB global corruption scandal.

 

 

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