Malaysia premier’s visit: A warm wel­come at Trump’s house came af­ter he left Trump’s ho­tel.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JONATHAN O’CON­NELL Matt Zapo­to­sky and Drew Har­well con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.

Ho­tel staffers and Malaysian of­fi­cials de­clined to say whether Na­jib and the other of­fi­cials stayed overnight at the ho­tel, among the most ex­pen­sive in Wash­ing­ton, or if they did stay, for how long.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders dis­missed a ques­tion about the del­e­ga­tion’s stay. “We cer­tainly don’t book their ho­tel ac­com­mo­da­tions,” she told re­porters Tues­day.

But signs of the Malaysia del­e­ga­tion’s pres­ence were ob­vi­ous at the prop­erty. At lunchtime Mon­day, more than a dozen mem­bers of Na­jib’s en­tourage re­laxed in a lounge area re­served for ho­tel guests. That evening, they came and went from the ho­tel, some­times re­turn­ing to the valet stand with shop­ping bags.

Na­jib de­parted just be­fore 8 p.m. Mon­day in his mo­tor­cade. He had a sched­uled din­ner with a busi­ness group. He re­turned to the ho­tel and rode up the es­ca­la­tor at nearly 10:30 p.m.

On Tues­day morn­ing, dozens of del­e­ga­tion mem­bers con­vened in meet­ing rooms with name cards bear­ing the Malaysian coat of arms. Some at­tended a white-table­cloth break­fast in the ho­tel’s Lin­coln Li­brary meet­ing room.

Events of this scale would prob­a­bly mean hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in rev­enue for the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, based on con­firmed spend­ing to­tals of other groups that have set up camp there. The com­pany de­clined to com­ment.

Trump has come un­der fire for de­clin­ing to di­vest of his in­ter­est in the ho­tel, which is now man­aged by his sons, cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for for­eign gov­ern­ments and spe­cial in­ter­ests to en­rich the pres­i­dent while also seek­ing changes to U.S. pol­icy, in Na­jib’s case within a few min­utes’ time.

Law­suits from govern­ment watch­dog groups and in­quiries from Demo­cratic lead­ers and gov­ern­ments agen­cies, in­clud­ing the Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice, are tar­get­ing the ho­tel, which op­er­ates in a build­ing leased to his com­pany by the fed­eral govern­ment, which Trump over­sees.

Ethics ex­perts, cit­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion’s emol­u­ments clause, con­sider for­eign govern­ment book­ings at the ho­tel un­ac­cept­able. Though it has hosted ho­tel events for many for­eign en­ti­ties, as well as lob­by­ing-group events and Repub­li­can fundrais­ers, the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion says it does not seek for­eign gov­ern­ments as clients, keeps a sep­a­rate log of their pay­ments and plans to do­nate prof­its it re­ceives from them to the U.S. trea­sury at the end of the year.

Na­jib was sched­uled to re­turn to Malaysia on Wed­nes­day evening.

Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion to Na­jib also has drawn scathing crit­i­cism be­cause the United States is con­duct­ing a probe — its largest klep­toc­racy in­ves­ti­ga­tion ever — into whether the prime min­is­ter di­verted more than $1 bil­lion from a Malaysian-govern­ment in­vest­ment fund to his own bank ac­counts.

The Justice Depart­ment is ag­gres­sively in­ves­ti­gat­ing po­ten­tial fraud sur­round­ing the fund, known as 1MDB, and an­nounced in June that pros­e­cu­tors had filed for­fei­ture com­plaints seek­ing $540 mil­lion in as­sets.

U.S. pros­e­cu­tors a year ear­lier had filed sim­i­lar com­plaints seek­ing more than $1 bil­lion in as­sets that they al­leged were ill-got­ten gains from an ef­fort by Malaysian of­fi­cials and their as­so­ci­ates to mis­ap­pro­pri­ate money from the govern­ment-owned fund. That means the to­tal value of as­sets sought stands at nearly $1.7 bil­lion, the Justice Depart­ment has said.

Among the things U.S. of­fi­cials have sought to seize are New York City pent­houses, Hol­ly­wood and Bev­erly Hills man­sions, a pri­vate jet and even some fu­ture pro­ceeds from the movies “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “Dumb and Dum­ber To.” The 2016 com­plaint al­leged that more than $730 mil­lion of what seemed to be 1MDB money was ul­ti­mately routed to the per­sonal bank ac­count of “Malaysian Of­fi­cial 1,” a thinly veiled ref­er­ence to Na­jib.

Na­jib has said on so­cial me­dia that “no crime was com­mit­ted,” and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Malaysian at­tor­ney gen­eral de­ter­mined that the money in Na­jib’s ac­count was a per­sonal do­na­tion from the Saudi royal fam­ily. In 2015, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­ited Na­jib in Malaysia to curry sup­port for the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

The Malaysian del­e­ga­tion vis­it­ing this week in­cluded six other high-rank­ing of­fi­cials, ac­cord­ing to the Malaysian Em­bassy, among them the min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, the min­is­ter of trade, the chief sec­re­tary, the am­bas­sador to the United States and the di­rec­tor of the na­tion’s se­cu­rity coun­cil.

Mem­bers of Na­jib’s en­tourage re­peat­edly waved off a re­porter’s ques­tions Mon­day evening and Tues­day morn­ing. In­quiries to the Malaysian Em­bassy and the White House were not im­me­di­ately re­turned.

Once at the White House, Na­jib was greeted by Trump, Vice Pres­i­dent Pence and Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

“It’s great to have the prime min­is­ter of Malaysia and his very dis­tin­guished del­e­ga­tion with us to­day,” Trump said, sit­ting across a con­fer­ence ta­ble from Na­jib. Trump praised the prime min­is­ter for his stance on ter­ror­ism and for in­vest­ing in U.S. busi­nesses.

“Mr. Prime Min­is­ter, it’s a great honor to have you in the United States and in the White House,” he said.

Na­jib re­sponded by say­ing he wanted to help “strengthen the U.S. econ­omy” by pur­chas­ing Boe­ing air­planes and en­gines from Gen­eral Elec­tric, among other ini­tia­tives.


Pres­i­dent Trump greets Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak at the White House on Tues­day. Na­jib and his en­tourage were at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel on Mon­day night and Tues­day morn­ing.

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