Tindakan Najib dan rombongannya menginap di hotel milik Trump menimbulkan tanda tanya mengenai konflik kepentingan di White House. – Foto AFP

Washington, 13 Sept – Akhbar berpengaruh Amerika Syarikat, The Washington Post, berkata tindakan Datuk Seri Najib Razak dan rombongannya untuk menginap di sebuah hotel milik Presiden Donald Trump di ibu negara itu menimbulkan tanda tanya mengenai konflik kepentingan di White House.

“Pada Isnin waktu makan tengah hari, beberapa anggota rombongan Najib kelihatan di ruang istirehat untuk tetamu hotel,” menurut laporan itu merujuk Trump International Hotel, beberapa jam selepas Najib mengadakan pertemuan dengan Trump.

“Petang itu, mereka keluar masuk hotel itu, kadang kala dengan beg beli-belah,” lapor akhbar itu.

Ia di sebalik spekulasi penginapan Najib bukan dibayar oleh kerajaan AS seperti mana yang dilakukan untuk rombongan ketua kerajaan dari luar negara yang datang bertemu presiden.

The Washington Post berkata ia hampir pasti dapat mengesahkan Najib menginap di hotel dengan 263 bilik itu, iaitu antara yang termahal di Washington.

Tinjauan akhbar itu mendapati pelbagai aktiviti melibatkan rombongan Najib di beberapa ruang mesyuarat di hotel tersebut termasuk untuk sarapan pagi di bilik mesyuarat Lincoln Library.

“Majlis sebegini mendatangkan pendapatan beratus ribu dolar kepada Trump Organization, berdasarkan jumlah perbelanjaan dibuat oleh rombongan lain yang pernah menginap di sini,” kata akhbar itu.

Laporan itu di sebalik kritikan terhadap Trump yang enggan mendedahkan kepentingannya dalam hotel berkenaan, yang kini diuruskan anak lelaki beliau.

Pengkritik berkata ia membuka ruang kepada wakil kerajaan luar dan pihak berkepentingan untuk menyumbang kepada presiden, yang boleh mempengaruhi dasar Trump mengenai sesebuah negara.

Semalam, Naib Presiden PKR Rafizi Ramli turut mengatakan Najib menginap di sebuah hotel milik Trump, sementara segala kos rombongan tidak ditanggung pentadbiran AS.

“Ini mengesahkan bahawa lawatan beliau bukanlah satu lawatan rasmi Ketua Kerajaan dan saya merasakan segala perbelanjaan sebenarnya ditanggung oleh rakyat Malaysia,” kata Rafizi. – FMT

Laporan oleh media AS – ThinkProgress

ThinkProgress reported Tuesday morning that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is the subject of a Department of Justice corruption probe for allegedly misappropriating billions of dollars, was staying at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. before his meeting with President Trump.

On Tuesday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was asked about the report and defended Najib’s choice of lodging — a choice that directly lines Trump’s pockets since he still owns the hotel.

This is a huge boost to the autocratic leader — and he’s returning the favor.

Asked if it was “problematic for someone under DOJ investigation to be supporting the president’s for-profit company,” Sanders said Najib made a “personal decision.”

Pressed if she thought it was an attempt to “curry favor with the President,” Sanders replied, “no, I don’t.”

On Twitter, Harvard Law professor Larry Tribe said there was “no doubt” that Trump accepting payments from the Malaysian government through his hotel was unconstitutional.

The average price of a room at the Trump International Hotel is $652.98 per night — more than $150 higher than the average rate at competing D.C. hotels.

The “Trump Townhouse” suite, more suitable for a prime minister, goes for more than $18,750 per night. And it’s not just room fees that bring in cash: services throughout the hotel are dramatically higher than other area hotels. The bar offers a $100 cocktail and the cheapest cocktail on the menu is $23.

The Trump hotel has actively courted visiting diplomats willing to pay these prices.

Unconstitutional hospitality

The one problem with Trump’s business strategy is that, according to many legal experts, its unconstitutional.

Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution provides that “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.”

Najib’s stay will clearly be a financial benefit to the Trump hotel, which remains fully owned by Trump. It would, according to most legal experts, constitute an “emolument” under the constitution. Accepting an emolument could be considered an impeachable offense.

The purpose of the emoluments clause is to prevent a foreign government from buying influence with the President, a heightened concern when the leader of the government in question is under active investigation by the United States federal government.

Trump’s decision to retain full ownership of the hotel while in office has already spurred three major lawsuits, including a recent one by the Attorneys General from Maryland and the District of Columbia. That suit alleges that Trump is “flagrantly violating” the Emoluments Clause.

Trump has attempted head off his legal problems by pledging to donate “profits” from foreign governments staying at his hotels. Today revealed that the Trump Organization is not keeping records that would allow it to segregate the profits.

Further, this scheme would not solve Trump’s legal issues. There is no exemption to the Emoluments Clause if the recipient of an emolument gives it away later. – Read more ThinkProgress

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