Newsweek has reproduced an article penned by former World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz on the meeting between United States President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
The magazine published the article, which first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) website, with the headline “Trump’s meeting with Malaysian crook Najib reeks of the swamp”.
The original headline of the article published on the AEI website on Sept 12, the day Najib met Trump in the White House, read “This is not draining the swamp”.
In his article, Wolfowitz (photo) urged the US president to find out who had arranged the meeting and to send a strong signal to lobbyists attempting to sell access to him.
He described the meeting as “unfortunate” and recounted how an Australian expert on Southeast Asia was quoted as saying in the New York Times that from a public relations viewpoint, it was a meeting the White House should avoid and that a photo opportunity with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would be better.
Wolfowitz also made a reference to a Washington Post editorial that said the visit was a “new low” and noted the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) 1MDB-related suits, as well as the links drawn to Malaysian Official 1, which had been confirmed to be Najib.
“Did President Trump know about any of this when the Malaysian prime minister was added to his schedule?” he asked.
“One fact not mentioned by any of those three major papers seems to provide a clue as to how this meeting was arranged. In May, a former Trump campaign aide – Healy E Baumgardner-Nardone of the ’45 Group’ – registered as a foreign agent to represent the Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. She reported receiving US$250,000 for her services,” he added.
Wolfowitz claimed that the Malaysian government paid lavishly in the past for Washington “swamp dwellers” to purchase influence and disparage its opponents and critics.
In Malaysia, he said, the government does more than disparaging its critics and cited how an FBI agent, in a 1MDB-related court filing, claimed that “identifying witnesses (in the case) could result in intimidation or threaten their safety”.
Wolfowitz, who is a visiting scholar at the AEI, said if Trump was serious about “draining the swamp”, he should have found a diplomatic excuse to postpone this “embarrassing meeting”.
“Doing so would have sent a strong signal to other lobbyists attempting to sell access to the president.
“Having failed to do that, at a minimum he should find out who was responsible for inviting the Malaysian swamp to the White House. And if they did not properly inform him of the scandal surrounding Najib, someone needs to be disciplined,” he added.
Najib has repeatedly denied abusing public funds for personal gain. He has also been cleared by attorney-general Mohamed Apandi Ali.
The prime minister has accused his political rivals, including former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, of conspiring to topple him from power with false allegations. It is also claimed that several foreign media organisations are part of this campaign.
As for the DOJ’s filings, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who had confirmed that Malaysian Official 1 is Najib, said since the prime minister was not named in the suits, he is not the subject of the kleptocracy investigation.