When a president hosts a meeting with a foreign head of state, it’s normal. When Donald Trump welcomed Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak at the White House yesterday, “normal” isn’t the adjective that comes to mind.
After all, as the New York Times reported, Najib is at the center of a corruption scandal that’s under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.
[Najib] is under investigation by the United States and others for an estimated $3.5 billion that investigators believe he and his associates diverted from a Malaysian government fund that he headed. Among other things, the money was used to buy jewelry, real estate and the rights to Hollywood films.
The White House insisted that the Justice Department inquiry had no relevance to the meeting and would not figure in the conversation.
It’s an awkward dynamic to consider: when Trump and Najib met, who was the most controversial head of state in the room?
For his part, Najib has responded to the corruption allegations by firing investigators and dismissing allegations as “fake news.”
Traditionally, when the United States talked about exporting the power of ideas around the globe, this wasn’t what we meant.
And speaking of corruption, the Washington Post took note of the Malaysian prime minister’s accommodations in our nation’s capital.
Before arriving at the White House late Tuesday morning to meet with President Trump, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak strode through the golden doors of an elevator at the Trump International Hotel and past the lounge to his waiting motorcade.
The prime minister’s official White House visit also brought at least 24 hours of activity and sales to the glamorous 263-room hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue that Trump owns through a trust. And it is likely to escalate debate over whether the president is benefiting from a luxury property that has become Washington’s new power center – and, its critics say, a staging area for those seeking White House access.
In case anyone’s forgotten, before his inauguration, Trump vowed that his business would monitor receipts and make sure the president didn’t profit from foreign governments. Trump’s organization later decided this would be difficult and gave up trying.
Postscript: Ordinarily when a head of state visits the White House, the two leaders will host a joint press conference. With Razak, the Trump administration skipped the custom.