Najib, Malaysian delegation spent lavishly at Trump Washington hotel, report says

John Bechtel
Najib, Malaysian delegation spent lavishly at Trump Washington hotel, report says Then-U.S. President Donald Trump greets then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Sept. 12, 2017.
Mandel Ngan/AFP

Former U.S. President Donald Trump received millions of dollars from 20 foreign governments including Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand during the first two years of his presidency, said a Democratic Congressional report released Thursday.

The U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Democrats alleges in its 156-page report that Trump received $7.8 million during the first two years of his presidency from payments to four of his properties. They 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 $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,” said a news release accompanying the report.

China was top spender at more than $5.5 million, it said.

The report highlighted lavish spending by former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his entourage in September 2017 even as the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) was investigating him for his role in the theft of billions of dollars from sovereign fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib and the Malaysian delegates spent $248,962 on room charges and amenities from Sept. 7 to 15, and Sept. 27, 2017, when Trump hosted Najib on an official state visit, the report said.

“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,” the report said. The DOJ later found that $4.5 billion had been stolen from the 1MDB.

Najib visited Washington less than a year before the May 2018 elections.

Flanked by officials from both countries, then-U.S. President Donald Trump (center left) meets then-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (center right) in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Sept. 12, 2017. [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

The Washington-based research group Center for Strategic and International Studies said Najib would have been happy if his visit had demonstrated to Malaysians “that the U.S. investigation is really a relatively minor issue” and that he could be welcomed to the Oval Office as an “important Southeast Asian leader.”

Despite those efforts, Najib was forced from power after losing the election and has since been imprisoned following his conviction on charges linked to a 1MDB subsidiary.

Breaking down the Malaysians’ hotel bill, the report noted that Najib stayed in the presidential suite at a cost of $10,000 per night. Additional charges included $750 for “furniture movement (dressing room) for Embassy of Malaysia,” $1,500 for a personal trainer and thousands of dollars “to have a butler assist in serving multiple meals.”

The hotel also charged the U.S. Secret Service (the organization charged with protecting the president) more than $9,000 for rooms for the detail protecting Najib’s delegation. The room rate of $650 per night was “more than double the government’s $231 per diem lodging rate for Washington.”

‘Political undertones’

A delegation from another Southeast Asian nation, the Philippines spent nearly $75,000 at Trump’s Washington hotel for a National Day reception – “a move the Philippine Ambassador to the United States acknowledged had ‘political undertones.’”

A month after the June 12, 2018, reception, Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez announced Manila would begin negotiating a proposed free trade deal with Washington. The deal did not materialize.

In addition, the report alleged that Trump received millions of dollars while in office from the Trump Tower Manila apartment building which opened in 2017. Referring to a New York Times story, the committee said Trump underreported income from the complex in financial disclosures.

“Another troubling aspect of the project was when then-President Trump’s image was used to promote the Manila tower project after he took office despite assurances from The Trump Organization that such overseas marketing campaigns would be halted during his presidency,” the report said.

“This disturbing episode followed a similar marketing campaign for a Trump project in India. Both demonstrated Donald Trump’s unabashed willingness to do business as president.”

The committee report detailed spending by Thailand as well, which was much lower than that of Malaysia and the Philippines. The Thai minister for agriculture and cooperatives and other officials spent $11,340 at Trump’s Washington hotel between Aug. 18 and 24, 2018.

The report’s news release blamed House Republicans led by Committee Chairman James Comer for blocking the investigation into Trump who is seeking the Republican nomination to run for president against Joe Biden who defeated him in the 2020 election.

“Despite these efforts, today’s report makes clear that former President Trump put lining his pockets with cash from foreign governments seeking policy favors over the interests of the American people,” said the committee’s ranking member, Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland.


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