International Law Politics

Did Najib just violate the U.S. constitution by staying at Trump’s hotel?

Okay, chup. Before we start screaming bloody murder, here’s what’s been happening over the past couple of days: Our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been on a working visit to the US. What’s a ‘working visit’? FYI there are FIVE kinds of visits you can make to the White House, according to this order:

  • State visit: Highest ranking visit only offered to a Chief of State (eg. President of a country or reigning monarch)
  • Official visit: Offered to a head of government (eg. PM) where the guest gets a stay at the Blaire House (the guest house for visitors to the White House) and a full honours ceremony for arrival and departure
  • Official working visit: Staying at the Blaire House and a luncheon
  • Working visit: The one Najib is on… Extended to a Chiefs of State or Head of Government at the invitation of the US President – without luncheon, dinner or formal press
  • Private visit: where a request is needed to meet with the president- the only visit where a request is required

This means that Najib’s visit is the 4th highest ranking visit. Why does this matter? A working visit involves meeting with the president – that’s about it. There aren’t any meals together or any gifts exchanged, unlike higher ranking visits.

That being said, Najib doesn’t seem to be sad at all being in the US where he’s been hangin’ out with his buddy, President of the US of A, Donald Trump (really, he’s serious about them being friends)…

Look at them happy faces! Photo from Straits Times

Ngawwwwww…Look at them happy faces! Photo from Straits Times

Having dinner with Malaysian students studying in the US….

From PM's Twitter account

Ngawwwwww…From PM’s Twitter account

And of course, getting the serious stuff done.

"Having a meeting in the White House #serious" Photo from New York Times

NGUMMM….Having a meeting in the White House #serious. Photo from New York Times

It seems like Najib is finally doing things according to the books, bringing back with him 16 new airplanes and fingers crossed, more moolah to fund the high speed train rail we’re building to Singapore. He’s also been putting up at the Trump International Hotel, which seems nice of him – Trump is the president, so stay his hotel la!…Right?

Wrong! Here is where the drama begins. Trump International Hotel is owned by the Trump Organisation, which is owned by, duh, Trump himself. Watch the first 2 minutes of this video to get a better idea of what we’re talking about:

https://youtu.be/KRkSJh6DyWA?t=75

 

OMG. Did Najib break US laws?

Basically, reports are saying Najib’s stay goes against the US Constitution, which states:

“…And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. (emphasis added).”

In other words, Najib staying at Trump Hotel = giving Trump a present.

Wait. It’s not like Najib is giving money to Trump directly, right? That’s where things get a little sticky. When Trump became President, he said that he would pass his company to his two sons. However, he still kept his ownership interest, which means he can still buy, sell and manage the company. Which would mean Trump still gets to profit from Najib’s hotel stay??? The US has said that this wasn’t their arrangement, though Malaysia hasn’t spoken about it.

But… is this Najib’s fault, or Trump’s fault? After all, this isn’t the first time a foreign minister has stayed in that hotel, and this has come up in discussion quite a number of times too.

Image from Google

Trump, when foreign ministers stay at Trump Hotel

 

Oh… then is Trump breaking the law?!

Many analysts are saying Trump is breaking the law by allowing foreign ministers to stay there. In the video, it says that Trump initially agreed to donate the proceedings to the US Treasury (those are the people that print bank notes and mint coins). Yet later on, the Trump Organisation told the US Congress (that’s like Parliament for us) that doing so would not be practical, and that the guests at the hotel will beh song.

Another thing that puts Trump on the spot is the fact that Najib is currently under investigation by the US Justice Department and the FBI (!!!) for spending 1MDB funds on everything – from diamonds to movie rights, even a Picasso painting for Leonardo DiCaprio! The PM denied these allegations, but Leo has mentioned that he would return anything that ties in with the scandal.

Have you fallen so far, Jack?! T___T Photo from Hollywood Reporter

From low class citizen on the Titanic, to recipient of expensive paintings from PM? Photo from Hollywood Reporter

Despite the magnitude of what is being investigated (some reports say that the money involved is above US$1.7 billion – that’s over RM7 billion), not only did Trump come under fire for hosting such a scandalous guest, but reports say that the issue was not even brought up! But it doesn’t mean that they sat around and talked about fluff stuff either, like their love for golf (or maybe they did, who knows).

NAH, BACA:
M'sian women tell us their sexual harassment stories - and why they kept quiet

 

Then, Najib go there for what one?

Ok, so actually this trip ISN’T such a big deal la. He is the first of many guests who will be yamcha-ing with Donald Trump over the next couple of months, with the leaders from Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam visiting next, indicating it might just be Trump wanting to get to know us ASEAN folk.

So the two buddies also talked a bit about terrorism and the threat of ISIS. About having each other’s backs, and how the Malaysian police have stopped 13 major terrorist attacks in Malaysia.

Here’s another fun fact: did you know that Malaysia and the US have been bros for 60 years now? Because of this, we already have investments going back and forth between the two countries. What happened with this trip was that government-owned Khazanah and EPF upped their investments in the US, which will help the American economy.

Sounds like a deal, bro. Photo from Malay Mail

Sounds like a deal, bro. Photo from Malay Mail

Woi, help American economy for what? Malaysian economy pulak?? Trump was quoted as saying that the stocks that Malaysia has invested into US have been paying off:

“Malaysia is a massive investor in the United States in the form of stocks and bonds, and the stock exchange. And they have to be very happy because we’re hitting new highs on almost a weekly basis. And so we’re very proud of our stock market and what’s happened since I became President. So I congratulate you on those investments.” – Donald Trump

Najib also emphasised that he wasn’t there to get money from the US

Oh and of course, what everyone’s talking about is the RM7.5 billion that was spent on buying new planes for MAS (yes the retrenched-thousands-of-staff MAS). You can read the transcript of the discussion between Trump and Najib here.

 

So did the meeting go well then? Let’s see what everyone said

tl;dw – Mahathir lol-ed.

His reaction aside, Pakatan Harapan raised an important question – with many people losing their jobs in MAS last year, would buying more planes give people more jobs, or was it not even necessary? Khairuddin Abu Hassan, who was charged for filing reports against 1MDB when he was overseas, also released a statement, calling the President ignorant:

“Mr President’s decision is ignorant of the current issues, especially one involving the 1MDB scandal which is being investigated by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The invitation is unreasonable as it will lead to all sorts of speculation on the part of the US’ enforcement agencies probing the scandal.” – Khairuddin, on Free Malaysia Today

Of course, Najib’s visit is also big news to the international press, with many articles quoting the White House’s Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in light of Najib staying at the Trump International Hotel:

“We certainly don’t book their hotel accommodations, so I couldn’t speak to the personal decision they made about where to stay here in DC.”

and in referencing the FBI investigation on Najib, she said:

“That investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place.”

But of course, here at CILISOS, we are presenting both sides, so here’s another comment about how the meeting went, according to Malaysia’s very own Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman:

“If only Malaysians could see how he (Najib) handled the visit and the quality of the exchanges which earned the respect of the US President and his delegation. It will make you proud to be Malaysian. Truly, I can’t find enough words to describe how proud I was. And you all should too because our Prime Minister is special.” – Anifah, on New Straits Times

 

Um so, how do you think the meeting went?

?????? Photo from Giphy

?????? Photo from Giphy

Let us know in the comments 😉

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