Mr. Najib and Mr. Trump

May 8, 2018

GE-14–Polling Day for Malaysia is just around the Corner

Mr. Najib and Mr. Trump

The Malaysian strongman has played U.S. Presidents for fools.

Image result for Najib Razak in The White House

The Toxic Mr. Najib, Prime Minister of Malaysia has been conning naive American Presidents, Barack H. Obama and Donald J. Trump. Last September 2017 when he visited The White House Mr. Najib told  Mr. Trump that he would help create jobs in the United States and buy Boeing aircraft.

Malaysians go to the polls on Wednesday, and in a normal democracy the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak would lose in a rout amid scandals and widespread defections. But the latest polling suggests the opposition in this important Southeast Asian nation will again win the popular vote but fall short of a parliamentary majority.

This would be a repeat of the 2013 election, after which Mr. Najib carried on as Prime Minister and the leader of the ruling United Malays National Organization, or UMNO. The result would show how much Mr. Najib and his party have corrupted Malaysia’s democracy with gerrymandered districts, control of the media, and race-based demagoguery.

Image result for Najib stole 1mdb money

In 2015 this newspaper broke the news that nearly $700 million from the state-owned investment fund 1MDB transited through Mr. Najib’s personal bank accounts. He said the money was a legal political donation from a Saudi royal and that most of it was returned. Malaysia’s Attorney-General cleared him of wrongdoing, and no charges have been brought in Malaysia.

That didn’t stop six nations from investigating the laundering of $4.5 billion allegedly embezzled from 1MDB. The U.S. Department of Justice filed civil lawsuits to freeze more than $1.6 billion of assets, much of which was held by the friends and family of “Malaysian Official No. 1.” U.S. officials have told the Journal that Official No. 1 refers to Mr. Najib.

Initially the 1MDB case did not shake support for Mr. Najib and UMNO among rural Malays, who hold the balance of power in elections. Government control over the media meant most Malaysians were unaware of the details and heard only Mr. Najib’s denials.

But the scandal divided the UMNO elite, with several high-ranking officials leaving the party, including former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin. Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad even joined the opposition coalition as its leader and has spread word of the missing money to the grassroots. He has also helped ethnic Malays overcome their mistrust of the opposition that includes ethnic Chinese.

Malaysia’s government clearly needs a housecleaning, and a growing share of its citizens agree. Mr. Najib took office as a modernizer and reformer in 2009, promising to abolish repressive colonial-era laws as well as racial preferences that benefit ethnic Malays. But amid the scandals he has fallen back on the old UMNO model of political patronage and harassment of critics in media and politics. The main opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, was jailed on trumped-up sodomy charges.

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Golf in Hawaii with former President Barack H. Obama

Mr. Najib has also been adept at manipulating American Presidents. Barack Obama indulged him in a round of golf in Hawaii in 2014 that became a useful photo-op in Kuala Lumpur. President Trump also got played when he invited Mr. Najib to the White House last year and praised him despite the “Malaysian Official No. 1” reference in the Justice lawsuit.

None of this helps American interests. If Mr. Najib wins again, he is likely to crack down further on civil liberties and continue his trend of appeasing China’s expansion in the South China Sea. Mr. Trump shouldn’t let himself be played for a fool again.

G.E–14: Former Malaysian Prime Minister returns to Politics

April 24, 2018

G.E–14: Former  Malaysian Prime Minister returns to Politics

By James Hookway

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—On a recent humid afternoon, experts holding forth here on why former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad was too old to fight another campaign were stunned into silence when the 92-year-old walked in, took a microphone and said, “As far as health is concerned, I’m not senile yet.”

Many in the audience cheered the unlikely leader of the opposition, now on a mission to vanquish Prime Minister Najib Razak, the current leader of the party Dr. Mahathir helmed for 22 years, in elections May 9. Dr. Mahathir pledges to stay in power only long enough to hand the government over to his former deputy—a man whose political rise he thwarted two decades ago by having him arrested for sodomy.

A former village doctor from Alor Setar in Kedah, a small border town near Thailand, Dr. Mahathir engineered Malaysia’s transition from a tin-mining backwater into one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, known for its semiconductor factories and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, before retiring in 2003. Now he is set on dislodging Mr. Najib, a well-born political insider whom Dr. Mahathir and many others have accused of siphoning money from a scandal-tainted state investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd., or 1MDB.

U.S. authorities allege that at least $4.5 billion was misappropriated between 2009 and 2015. U.S. authorities also allege in civil lawsuits that nearly $700 million flowed from 1MDB into the personal accounts of “Malaysian Official 1,” a reference to Mr. Najib, people familiar with the matter say. 1MDB and Mr. Najib have denied wrongdoing and said they would cooperate with any lawful international investigation.

Prime Minister Najib Razak waving his party's flag before launching his coalition's campaign in Kuala Lumpur on April 7.
(Caretaker)Prime Minister Najib Razak waving his party’s flag before launching his coalition’s campaign in Kuala Lumpur on April 7. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Dr. Mahathir said re-establishing legal accountability would be his first order of business if the broad, multi-ethnic opposition coalition wins. “There is no rule of law anymore,” he said in an interview. “Najib can do practically anything he likes.”

In his heyday, Dr. Mahathir blocked his rivals ruthlessly and centralized nearly all political power for himself through his party, the United Malays National Organization. When his ambitious deputy Anwar Ibrahim challenged him for power, Dr. Mahathir ordered his arrest in 1998 on charges that he had broken Malaysia’s sodomy laws by having sex with two male aides. Mr. Anwar was subsequently convicted and served six years in jail, sidelining his political career until the conviction was overturned.


Speaking in Putrajaya, the purpose-built capital he constructed in the final years of his premiership, Dr. Mahathir acknowledged that the campaign would involve a reckoning with his own past—as well as an awkward détente with Mr. Anwar. The former deputy prime minister remains a popular figure and is the most viable long-term opposition candidate for prime minister, but he is in prison on another disputed sodomy conviction and barred from running.

Dr. Mahathir pledged to pardon Mr. Anwar and hand the prime ministership over to him within a few months if he wins. Mr. Anwar, due for release in June, will remain banned from politics for another five years unless he secures such a pardon.

“My reputation as a dictator and an unjust man, my jailing of Anwar, they have all come back. Some people in the opposition ask, ‘What is the difference between Najib and him? It’s like Coca-Cola and Pepsi cola. There’s not much difference, so why should we bother changing the government?,’” Dr. Mahathir said.

Malaysian jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim walking out from a court house in Kuala Lumpur in September.
Malaysian jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim walking out from a court house in Kuala Lumpur in September. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

“But if I had really been so bad they wouldn’t have wanted me to be prime minister again,” he said, smiling.

Dr. Mahathir said he had no choice but to fire Mr. Anwar and allow his prosecution after the national chief of police said the deputy prime minister’s alleged offenses made him vulnerable. The police chief has challenged that account.

For his part, Mr. Anwar, now 70, said that while disagreements remain, “we have all agreed to move on.”

“He’s not going to say ‘Oh Anwar, I’m sorry about what happened to you,’’’ Mr. Anwar said during a recess at a court hearing earlier this month. “He’s not like that. I know him very well.”

Still, Mr. Anwar appears willing to strike an alliance with Dr. Mahathir, whom he sees as a significant campaign asset.

“What he brings to the table is the ability to penetrate that hard core of Malay voters who still support UMNO,’’ Mr. Anwar said. “People remember the things he did.”

Mr. Najib’s supporters say Dr. Mahathir’s real motivation in running is to secure a long-term political role for his son, Mukhriz Mahathir. The younger man failed to establish himself in the top ranks of the ruling party, so now his father is hoping to eventually catapult him to premiership via the opposition, says Shahril Hamdan, a member of the ruling party’s youth committee. The son is running for a parliamentary seat, but the family denies any such intention. “It’s ridiculous,” Dr. Mahathir said.

During his nine years in power, Mr. Najib has adopted and even doubled down on some of Dr. Mahathir’s old policies. He has strengthened a long-running affirmative-action program to benefit Malaysia’s majority Malays, who have often lagged behind the generally wealthier Chinese minority.

Mr. Najib has also echoed Dr. Mahathir, critics say, in moving toward a more Islamist position on social issues. He has crafted a soft alliance with the country’s largest Islamist party, stirring fears that a more strident, politicized version of the faith may gain ground. Last year, authorities banned Oktoberfest-style beer festivals in the Kuala Lumpur area under pressure from the Islamist party, known as PAS. The ruling United Malays National Organization has also flirted with the idea of expanding the role of Shariah.

The government has also redrawn electoral boundaries in its favor, something Dr. Mahathir used to do in his day. As a result, some observers say Mr. Najib is a shoo-in to win. In 2013, his coalition won 60% of parliamentary seats with less than half of the popular vote; this time, thanks to the redistricting, he could return as prime minister with as little as 16.5% of all votes, according to calculations made by an opposition-backed election watchdog.

Dr. Mahathir holding aloft an election manifesto of the four-party opposition coalition last month.
Dr. Mahathir holding aloft an election manifesto of the four-party opposition coalition last month. Photo: MOHD RASFAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES


Malaysia’s government didn’t respond to a request for comment on its electoral arrangements.

Many in the opposition’s coalition feel they can win in rural districts left behind by the export boom driving Malaysia’s 5.9% growth last year by highlighting how rising living costs, new taxes and inflation are putting people in a pinch as wages stagnate.

Another pivotal factor could be Dr. Mahathir himself, and whether he can win the trust of former government voters and Mr. Anwar’s supporters. Both men rose from humble beginnings and worked hand in hand for years. Mr. Anwar was viewed as Dr. Mahathir’s successor and became known for espousing a more democratic form of government. But when Mr. Anwar challenged Dr. Mahathir’s leadership, he ended up in prison.

“It’s difficult for people not to blame me,” Dr. Mahathir said.

While Mr. Anwar is ready to move on, other opposition leaders are less forgiving of the former leader, including Mr. Anwar’s eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar.

“He needs to be watched,” she said. “Mahathir created the divides in Malaysia. We inherited his system. It’s up to him to fix it.”

Dr. Mahathir in Putrajaya earlier this month.
Dr. Mahathir in Putrajaya earlier this month. Photo: IAN TEH for The Wall Street Journal


Trump’s Choice –John Bolton as National Security Adviser

March 23, 2018

Trump Taps John Bolton for NSA Post

President had discussed Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster’s departure for ‘some time,’ White House says

Image result for John Bolton
President Trump’s Choice as National Security Adviser–The Neo-Con (Amb) John Bolton

President Donald Trump said he named former Ambassador John Bolton as his new National Security Adviser, succeeding Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.

“I am pleased to announce that, effective 4/9/18, @AmbJohnBolton will be my new National Security Advisor,” Mr. Trump tweeted Thursday. “I am very thankful for the service of General H.R. McMaster who has done an outstanding job & will always remain my friend. There will be an official contact handover on 4/9.”

Mr. Bolton, the former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, has openly discussed his interest in taking the national-security post in the Trump administration. He will be Mr. Trump’s third National Security Adviser in 14 months.

Mr. Bolton, who won’t need Senate confirmation to take the job, has been a controversial figure in Washington and has pressed the White House to take tougher positions on Iran and North Korea in editorials, television commentary and other conversations.

In a Fox News interview Thursday evening, even Mr. Bolton seemed taken aback by the news of his appointment. “I really didn’t expect the announcement this afternoon,” he said. “I think I still am a Fox News contributor,” he added, noting that he was “in limbo” until he takes over next month.

Mr. Trump last week conveyed his decision to replace Gen. McMaster to John Kelly, his Chief of Staff, according to administration officials. The President had sought a more graceful exit for his National Security Adviser than the one he afforded his Secretary of State, whom he fired over Twitter last week.

In recent weeks, Mr. Trump began discussing potential successors for Gen. McMaster, according to former Trump administration officials. Mr. Trump met with Mr. Bolton last week and again on Thursday.

In a statement, Mr. Trump thanked Gen. McMaster for his service. “He helped develop our America First National Security Strategy, revitalize our alliances in the Middle East, smash ISIS, bring North Korea to the table, and strengthen our nation’s prosperity,” the President said. “This work and those achievements will ensure that America builds on its economic and military advantages.”

Gen. McMaster said in a Thursday statement that he was “requesting retirement from the U.S. Army effective this summer after which I will leave public service. Throughout my career it has been my greatest privilege to serve alongside extraordinary service members and dedicated civilians.” He said he was “thankful” to the President and proud to have served on the National Security Council.

A White House official said the President and Gen. McMaster had discussed the national security adviser’s departure for “some time” and that the timeline had been “expedited as they both felt it was important to have the new team in place, instead of constant speculation.”

The announcement, coming so soon after the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior officials, left the West Wing in a downbeat mood Thursday evening, with aides offering gallows humor about the number of White House departures and jobs that needed to be filled.

The 69-year-old Mr. Bolton has urged the administration to strike first against North Korea and to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal in columns published by The Wall Street Journal.

“North Korea test-launched on Friday its first ballistic missile potentially capable of hitting America’s East Coast. It thereby proved the failure of 25 years of U.S. nonproliferation policy,” he wrote in an August 2017 column. “It is past time for Washington to bury this ineffective ‘carrots and sticks’ approach.”

Last month, he penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal titled “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First,” in which he argued in favor of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea, calling the threat “imminent.”

Mr. Bolton has dubbed the Iran agreement the “diplomatic Waterloo Mr. Obama negotiated.” Mr. Trump faces a deadline in May to extend sanctions relief granted to Iran under the accord. The president threatened in January to pull out of the deal if Europe and Congress can’t find a way to address his concerns by then.

Democrats and some Republicans have previously suggested that if Mr. Bolton were nominated for roles at the State Department, they would oppose him, citing his foreign-policy views. Mr. Trump has considered Mr. Bolton for roles including Secretary of State.

“The problem with John Bolton is he disagrees with President Trump’s foreign policy,“ Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said last year on ABC. ”John Bolton still believes the Iraq war was a good idea. He still believes that regime change is a good idea. He still believes that nation-building is a good idea.”

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers praised the appointment of Mr. Bolton to the national-security post. Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) called him an “excellent choice.”

Harry Kazianis, Director of Defense Studies at the Center for the National Interest, a think tank founded by former President Richard Nixon, said he believed that Messrs. Trump and Bolton have “jelled” through conversations over the past year and predicted Mr. Bolton could be a forceful presence in the West Wing.

“Trump likes someone who will tell him straight how it is,” Mr. Kazianis said. “I don’t think Trump would have brought him in as national security adviser if he didn’t think it would work out. It could be a very strong marriage, where Bolton serves out the whole tenure of the administration.”

Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had little chemistry with the president and often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations.
Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster had little chemistry with the president and often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Bloomberg News

Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which advocates sanctions against Iran and North Korea, said Mr. Bolton’s appointment would likely be the final nail in the coffin for the Iran deal. Mr. Dubowitz expressed hope that the rise of a more hawkish national security team would actually make it less likely that the U.S. would start a war.

“Bolton is a believer in the robust use of all instruments of American power,” he said. “But perhaps the perception that Trump, Bolton and (Secretary of State nominee Mike) Pompeo are willing to use these instruments will make it less likely they have to be used. (Ayatollah) Khamenei, Kim Jong Un, (Vladimir) Putin and others become more—not less—aggressive when they perceive American weakness.”

The appointment also drew criticism from Democrats, some former diplomats and others, who said the addition of Mr. Bolton would heighten the risk of a future military conflict. “President Trump is assembling a war cabinet full of ‘yes men’ who will fan his worst impulses,” said Sen. Edward Markey, (D, Mass.).

A Senior Fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a frequent commentator on Fox News, Mr. Bolton has cultivated a reputation as a brash conservative with an aggressive style.

He has pushed for limiting U.S. involvement in multilateral institutions and treaties, including the International Criminal Court, the Antiballistic Missile Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.

Recent Commentary from John Bolton

Mr. Bolton left his U.N. post after he failed to gain enough support in Congress to be confirmed in 2006. President Bush had originally used a recess appointment to put him in the role after his nomination had been blocked by a Democratic filibuster.

In addition to his U.N. post, Mr. Bolton also served in the Bush administration as Undersecretary of State for arms control and international security from 2001 to 2005.

Gen. McMaster has been working with strained alliances both inside and outside the White House and has faced persistent speculation that he would be pushed out as soon as the White House settled on someone to take his place.

Gen. McMaster has little chemistry with the President and often frustrated Mr. Trump with lengthy policy dissertations in the Oval Office, according to people familiar with the conversations. Gen. McMaster would typically lay out multiple options for the President, explaining each one at length, and Mr. Trump would grow impatient, preferring more to-the-point discussions, the people said.

Gen. McMaster had told associates last week that he believed he was safe and that the President urged him to remain in the job until after the midterm elections in November. On Tuesday, he was one of a handful of U.S. officials in an Oval Office meeting between the president and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Another reason Mr. Trump has sought to speed the hiring of a new national security adviser is that he wants to have a team in place ahead of possible talks with North Korea later this spring. This past weekend, Gen. McMaster traveled to San Francisco for a trilateral meeting with South Korea and Japan to discuss plans for the summit.

Write to Rebecca Ballhaus at

Corrections & Amplifications
John Bolton is 69 years old. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated his age as 68 years old. (March 22, 2018)