Washington insider: Malaysia likely paid for access to Trump
The Malaysian government has paid lavishly in the past for Washington âswamp dwellersâ to purchase influence and disparage its opponents and critics says Paul Wolfowitz, former US deputy secretary of defence.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is known to pay money to enable meetings with US presidents, a Washington insider says in reference to the meeting between Prime Minister Najib Razak and US President Donald Trump.
Paul Wolfowitz, a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute who served seven US administrations, suggests that the meeting was arranged by a former Trump aide.
In an opinion piece carried by Newsweek, Wolfowitz, who once served as US deputy secretary of defence, cites several instances of Malaysia or Malaysians paying for the attention of U S presidents in the past.
He said: âIn May, a former Trump campaign aide â" Healy E Baumgardner-Nardone of the â45 Groupâ â" registered as a foreign agent to represent the Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. She reported receiving US$250,000 for her services.
âThe Malaysian government has paid lavishly in the past for Washington âswamp dwellersâ to purchase influence and disparage its opponents and critics.â
During president Barack Obamaâs second term, he says, Malaysians ârewarded a major Democratic Party fundraiser handsomely for representing them, just before Najib secured an Obama state visit to Malaysia (the first by a US president in 60 years), and then received an even more unprecedented invitation from Obama to join him in Hawaii for a game of golf.â
Wolfowitz noted that during George W Bushâs first term as president, âMalaysian business interestsâ hired Belle Haven Consultants for fees in excess of US$1 million o ver two years to promote Malaysian interests in the US.
âSome of that money was reportedly used to influence the views of a prominent conservative think tank, through the intermediary of the Alexander Strategy Group, associated with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and the notorious Jack Abramoff.â
During Obamaâs first term, he says, the Najib government âpaid millions to APCO Worldwide of Washington, a portion of which went to the London-based âFact Based Communications, Ltdâ to hire an individual named Josh Trevino, to organise a network of bloggers to write blog posts disparaging opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim â" whose coalition was growing in strength heading into the 2013 elections.
âThat game blew up when Trevino was fired by The Guardian of London for failing to disclose that he was on the Malaysian payroll while writing a supposedly independent column. That forced Trevino to file a belated foreign agent registration exposing t he whole scheme.â
Wolfowitz, who has also served as World Bank president, says the Malaysian government does not âmerely disparage its criticsâ.
âJust last week, in the latest development in the 1MDB case, FBI special agent Robert Heuchling asserted in a filing in court in Los Angeles that âidentifying witnesses [in the case] could result in intimidation or threaten their safety,â citing âreports of local officials and politicians who have been arrested for purportedly disclosing information linked to 1MDBâ.
âHe also cited Malaysian press reports from Aug 30 that said âthe driver of former Malaysian attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail was shot in public as a possible warning against assisting the US government in the caseâ.â
Wolfowitz clearly does not approve of Trumpâs meeting with Najib, quoting what several people or newspapers had said about the meeting, including the remarks of an Australian expert on Southeast Asia.
H e notes that the New York Times had quoted Donald Greenlees of the Australian National University as saying, before the meeting: âFrom a pure public relations point of view, itâs a meeting the White House should avoid. Even a photo op with Kim Jong-Un would be better.â
The suit seeks to recover and forfeit over US$1 billion in assets alleged to have been purchased with funds allegedly misappropriated from 1Malaysia Development Bhd.
Najib has consistently denied any wrong doing.
He says Trump should have given a diplomatic excuse not to meet Najib, as doing so would have sent a strong signal to other lobbyists attempting to âsell accessâ to the US president.
Wolfowitz adds, having failed to do that, at a minimum Trump should find out who was responsible for inviting Najib to the White House. âAnd if they did not properly inform him of the scandal surrounding Najib, someone needs to be disciplined.â
Source: Google News