The seedy world of secret and illegal “back-channel lobbying” in Washington DC has been laid bare by recent criminal charges laid in the United States which expose how the Malaysian fraudster Jho Low paid US$8 million to some of Donald Trump’s most senior Republican fundraisers, in order to get ex-PM Najib Razak a meeting with the President.
The expressed purpose of the meeting, which Najib had plainly hoped would take place on Trump’s Bedminster golf course, was to persuade the President to interfere in the Department of Justice’s 1MDB investigation and close it down.
Tellingly, the case against Hawaii based lobbyist Nickie Mali Lum Davis was lodged on the very day that another former top advisor to President Trump, Steve Bannon, was himself arrested on corruption charges whilst sunning on the deck of a super-yacht owned by the Chinese billionaire fugitive Guo Wengui.
Guo Wengui is a client of Bannon’s separate ‘consultancy’ work, whilst the other objective of Jho Low’s lobbying, according to this latest case, was to persuade the Trump administration to extradite Guo back to China on behalf of the Chinese government.
At the time Najib was quoted boasting that he had been invited on official business to Washington September 2017 “for free” (ie paid for by the Malaysian taxpayer):
“My invitation to meet Trump was on official government business. I did not pay anything for the invite. My predecessor had to do several things to get an invite from (President George) Bush, I do not practise that,” he was quoted as saying. (Straits Times)
However, according to this latest criminal complaint, matters could not have been further from the truth as prosecutors have lain out step by step exactly how Jho Low acted as Najib’s agent in Washington.
Key to the strategy was one of Jho’s Hollywood celebrity pals, the rap singer Pras Michel who is facing money laundering charges (which he presently denies) together with his lawyer George Higginbotham for secretly funnelling $21 million on behalf of Jho Low.
Of that money $865,000 was allegedly channeled into President Obama’s 2012 campaign. However, Higginbotham has admitted in a guilty pleas that later payments were directed at the Trump administration to influence decisions over 1MDB and both he and Pras Michel were handsomely paid.
It was Pras Michel who allegedly approached the Hawaiian lobbyist Nickie Lum Davis (whose parents were themselves previously found guilty of illegal campaign contributions) and in turn Ms Lum approached the Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Elliot Broidy. According to the court filing issued on 20th August in Hawaii:
In or about March 2017, DAVIS told Person B [Elliot Broidy] that she had a possible client in Malaysia who could “use help with the forfeiture.” [over 1MDB]
Broidy agreed to help in return for an $8 million up front retainer and a “$75 million success fee if the “matter” was resolved within 180 days“.
Pras Michel in turn wanted evidence to show his Malaysian contacts that Broidy had the clout and connections to swing matters for them in Washington DC.
[Pras Michel] requested that DAVIS send him Person B’s [Broidy’s] biography describing Person B’s relationship with high-level officials in the Administration and photographs of [Broidy] and the President. On or about March 7, 2017, [Broidy’s] assistant, at DAVIS’s request, emailed photographs to DAVIS featuring [Broidy] and the President. [Pras Michel] said that he wanted the photographs so that [he] could highlight [Broidy’s] close access to the Administration.
The photos seems to have done the trick because a meeting was arranged between Lum Davies, Pras Michel and Broidy in Washington, following which they agreed to go to Asia to meet up with Jho Low and a contract was then drawn up with the law firm belonging to Broidy’s wife, Robyn Broidy, indicating that she would be representing Jho Low legally in the 1MDB forfeiture case. However prosecutors allege:
“In actuality, [the law firm] provided no litigation services or legal advice to Foreign National A [Jho Low]. The true purpose of the retention agreement was to secure [Broidy’s] services to lobby the administration and DOJ on [Jho Low’s] behalf based on [Elliot Broidy’s] political connections.”
Broidy then set about trying to use his influence on behalf of Jho Low, having texted Lum Davies that “I’m excited about our business prospects.”
Over the next months Lum Davies and Broidy communicated between themselves and Pas Michel about their efforts to serve Jho Low’s requirements.
On May 2nd, on condition of an upfront payment of $1 million (paid by Jho Low through Pras Michel’s company into the legal firm owned by Broidy’s wife) Broidy agreed to join Lum Davies and Pras Michel in Bangkok to meet Jho Low at the Shangri La Hotel. “Thanks and bon voyage – here’s to the start of an exciting and prosperous adventure!” Lum Davies texted Broidy as they set out:
“On or about May 2, 2017, DAVIS, [Pras Michel], and [Broidy] arrived in Bangkok. During the trip [they] met with Foreign National A [Jho Low] in a hotel suite. [Broidy] and [Jho Low] spoke about the lMDB investigation and civil forfeiture actions. Broidy agreed to help Jho Low attempt to resolve the matter. Jho Low agreed to pay [Broidy] an $8 million retainer and wanted [Broidy] to contact the Attorney General of the United States to get DOJ to drop the lMDB matter. [Broidy] agreed to lobby the Administration and DOJ for a favourable result for [Jho Low] while concealing the fact that he was working on [Jho Low’s] behalf. With respect to payment, [Broidy] stated that the money should not come directly from [Jho Low] and should be “clean.” [Jho Low] identified a friend who could pay [Broidy] and others.
[Broidy], [Pras Michel] and DAVIS agreed that the money would first be routed through [Pras Michel] and then be paid to [Broidy] through [Robyn Broidy’s law firm]. [Broidy] and DAVIS agreed that [Broidy] would pay DAVIS thirty percent of what [he] received. [Pras Michel] also agreed to pay DAVIS a percentage of the funds that [he] received.”
The prosecution filing then details how following the Bangkok meeting the three US lobbyists received a total of $8.5 million from Jho Low, sent from a company in Hong Kong. Although all three of them knew that under the Foreign Agents Registration Act they ought to have declared the payments and their purpose they did not.
[Pras Michel] Receives $8.5 Million from [Jho Low]; [Broidy] is Paid $6 Million; DAVIS is Paid $1.7 Million
At this point the team went to work to organise a meeting with President Trump for Najib Razak. Broidy contacted his link man at the White House, Rick Gates, the former Paul Manafort aide on the Trump election campaign.
Like Manafort, Gates was later jailed after admitting to lying about connections with the Russians. “Asian country is very motivated re July meeting. Hoping we can confirm date etc asap” Broidy allegedly texted Gates.
Broidy plainly had reason to think that Prime Minister Najib was fully aware and approving of his efforts arranged by Jho Low and according to the complaint the requests soon became more specific, because by June it was apparent that Najib saw his best approach through a game of golf:
In or about June 17, 2017, [Broidy] and DAVIS discussed Malaysian Prime Minister A. In or about June 201 7, Person B asked the President if he would play golf with Malaysian Prime Minister A. [Broidy] said, and DAVIS believed, that this would please [Jho Low] and would allow Malaysian Prime Minister A to attempt to resolve the 1MDB matter. [Broidy] also hoped to secure additional business with the government of Malaysian Prime Minister A and hoped that arranging golf with the President would further his business interests.
As Sarawak Report has previously reported Broidy was simultaneously at that time seeking to secure a multi-million dollar ‘cyber-security’ contract with Malaysia through his company Circinus.
As Malaysians well know, following Trump’s election Najib several times boasted about a game he had played in the past with his “golfing buddy” the President, who had signed a photograph calling Najib his “favourite Prime Minister”. Likewise, Najib had also secured a game of golf with former President Obama in December 2014 in none other than Hawaii.
Broidy’s frantic efforts to make the dream come true for Najib are detailed in the court papers.
June 29, 2017, [Broidy] sent a text message to a high ranking official in the White House in an effort to arrange a golf outing between Malaysian Prime Minister A and the President: “Hi [Person E – believed to be Chief of Staff John Kelly], As I mentioned, POTUS agreed to play a round of golf in DC or Bedminster in late July or early August with [Malaysian Prime Minister A]. Thank you very much for getting back to me with the date. Also a letter went to the state dept. for a meeting some weeks ago.”
However, the Chief of Staff and State Department apparently had better things to do than fix Najib’s game. Several further pleas went unanswered as the proposed visit was put back month after the month.
Specifically, in the course of texts sent by Broidy to the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, the fundraiser claims that he had spoken to Trump who had agreed to play with Najib at his own Bedminster golf course.
Furthermore, he claimed he had spoken directly to Najib about the plan as well and numerous texts from then White House Chief of Staff John Kelly make plain that he was also aware of the requests and the administration was dealing with Malaysian official channels on the same mater as well. At the same time Broidy and Lum Davies also imply they were having parallel conversations with Malaysian officials as well as with Jho Low (see below)
In which case, does it not beggar belief that Najib would have been totally unaware that Jho Low had hired Broidy to set the meeting up and game of golf with Trump to get charges dropped over 1MDB?
GOLF DIPLOMACY – EXTRACT FROM THE COURT PAPERS AGAINST LUM DAVIES
On or about June 30, 2017, [Broidy] sent another text message to Person E regarding the golf outing: “Hope we can speak this morning on [PRC National A] and golf date with POTUS for [Malaysian Prime Minister A].” Later that day, Person B followed up with, “[Person E], as discussed, hoping we can get these items completed today. Please call me anytime.”
On or about July 3, 2017, [Broidy] again texted Person E regarding the golf date for Malaysian Prime Minister A and the President: “Good morning [Person E/ Kelly]. It would be extremely helpful to me if you could confirm the golf date today with POTUS for [Malaysian Prime Minister A.] POTUS told me he is glad to play at Bedminster or DC. After we spoke, I mentioned to [Malaysian Prime Minister A] that he would have the date last week. Thank you very much! Regards, .” Later that day, [Broidy] texted Person E again: “[Person E], I’m following up. Please send me the date and time for the [Malaysian Prime Minister A] golf with POTUS. Thank you!”
On or about July 5, 2017, [Broidy] exchanged messages with Person E regarding the golf outing. Among other messages, [Broidy] texted, “[Person E],just left you a message. It’s been a week. Can you send me the date today? Best, ” Person E responded, “It’s with the NSC[.] They coordinate and negotiate – I’m sure it will get done[.]”….
54. On or about July 11, 2017, relaying a message from [Pras Michel], DAVIS texted [Broidy], “Wickr[.] It’s 5pm … I think we need to make a move. Date and otherwise. We’re getting killed.” These messages referred to confirming a date for Malaysian Prime Minister A to play golf with the President and [Jho Low’s] displeasure because no date had been confirmed.
The following day, [Broidy] texted DAVIS, “Send me text on wikr. I’m taking off and need to get to WH[.] Taking off. Need now[.]” DAVIS responded, “Done[.]” [Broidy] responded, “Got it. Thx[.] Trying to get [Person F] to do call asap[.]” Person F was then a high- ranking official on the National Security Council.
55. On or about July 13, 2017, DAVIS texted [Broidy], “Please call when u can so we can talk- we gotta handle this so pls pls go to D.C. And sit at WH until u get it. I will keep u company if u worry about being lonely!”
56. On or about July 13, 2017, [Broidy] texted [Kelly] again regarding the golf date: “Hi [Person E], It’s been 2 weeks. Checking again on date for golf for [Malaysian Prime Minister A] with POTUS. Can you text me date today? Thank you. Best, [.]” Person E/[Kelly] responded, “I’ll check now again[.] These things go through a process -“. [Broidy] responded “Thank you!!” Person E replied, “NSC is on it and coordinating[.]” Broidy responded, “Can we get date today?” Person E replied, “They’re working directly with [Malaysia.] NSC is coordinating a date.”
57. On or about July 15, 2017, Person B texted DAVIS, “Working on getting meetings for tomorrow.”….
On or about July 17, 2017, conveying urgency expressed by Person A on behalf of Foreign National A, DA VIS texted Person B, “[Person E] needs to give u this date now and ask him for update on other thing. We look impotent[.]” This text referred both to setting up a meeting between the President and Malaysian Prime Minister A and to the matter involving PRC National A. Person B responded, “Agree. Hammering away[.]”
59. On or about July 18, 2017, Person B and DAVIS exchanged several text messages about setting up a meeting between the President and Malaysian Prime Minister A. Among the messages, relaying information from [Pras Michel], DAVIS wrote, “Canu check Wikr[.] Really really need that date. It’s been crazy for me all day w this. He’s panicking[.]” DAVIS followed up with, “This date is mandatory today- we’re getting creamed.” According to Person A, [Jho Low] was panicking because no meeting had yet been scheduled. Person B responded,”Calling [Person E] now[.]” DAVIS replied in part, “Call everyone so they know u are raging mad[.] Call [Person G] too. We need this today[.]” Person G was an administrative assistant to the President. Person B replied, “Doing it now.”
60. On or about July 19, 2017, DAVIS texted [Broidy] in reference to scheduling a date for a meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister A and the President, “Secondly we need this date bad[.]” [Broidy] responded the following day, “Please bear with me. Getting some info on mtg[.]
On or about July 21, 2017, [Broidy] texted Person E regarding the golf outing: “[Person E], [Malaysia] have heard nothing from NSC. POTUS said he would play golf with Malaysian Prime Minister A in late July or early August. POTUS said he was happy to do it. You said it would be scheduled in a day or two. We’re in the 4th week. I know you are busy and procedures apply but I’ve been more than patient. Instead of being positive, this is now causing me damage. I would truly appreciate it if you could get back to me today with a date. Thank you! .”
62. On or about July 24, 2017, [Broidy] texted [Gates], “Received golf date in NJ in Sept. Sat before the UN General Assembly. Finally! Crossed off my list! Thank you also for helping!” [Gates] responded, “Let’s follow through and make sure the date is confirmed by the NSC. Did he tell you who gave him the date?” [Broidy] replied, “‘Thank you!! Fantastic. Given to [Person H a businessman friend of Trumps who was also approached by Broidy to help arrange the meeting] by [John Kelly].”
63. On or about July 27, 2017, [Broidy] texted [Gates], “Just checked again with [Malaysia]. Their Amb to US and Foreign Minister have heard nothing. Please check asap. Best, .” [Broidy] followed up with, “Hi [Rick Gates]- Can you call NSA for me re [Malaysia] receiving official word. Still no contact from NSC to [Malaysia] Amb on meeting. Thank you. Best, ” [Gates] responded,” will call again this morning. Talked to  briefly yesterday …. Will call shortly.”
On or about July 29, 2017, relaying information that she received from [Pras Michel] on behalf of [Jho Low], DAVIS texted [Broidy] in reference to the meeting between Malaysian Prime Minister A and the President, “They were told 12 sept is mtg. That’s day that un general assembly stars- it’s a Tuesday???? No golf??” DAVIS immediately followed by texting “Wicla[.]” [Broidy] responded, “May be two mtgs. Amb should ask. Golf at Bedminster on Sat and tues at WH?”
Alas, after the months of lobbying, for which the back-door influencers had been secretly paid millions out of Jho Low’s loot from 1MDB, the clash with the start of the UN Assembly put an end to all Najib’s plans for a glorious game of golf with the President of the United States.
Broidy had either been unlucky or outplayed by White House officials who appeared to have become less than keen at the thought of the President being seen to socialise so openly with a head of state who was seen as up to his neck in a kleptocracy scandal under investigation by their own Department of Justice.
For all Malaysia’s money Najib was reduced to the indignity of a short visit to the White House where the entire proceedings were formally recorded (including his begging speech offering to pour Malaysian money into the US) and then uploaded onto the internet.
The prosecution papers also include references to the so-called “Talking Points” that had been drawn up by Broidy and Gates to be sent to the Secretary of State in order to brief the President about Najib’s messages for his meeting. Top of the agenda was 1MDB and the Prime Minister’s desire to see the DOJ’s case closed down on the threat of a down turn of relations between the two countries. The talking points had been drawn up and sent to Broidy by Jho Low:
DAVIS received the talking points from [Pras Michel] -who provided them on behalf of [Jho Low] -and relayed them to [Broidy], knowing that [Broidy] would then provide them to the Secretary of State as background for the meeting. The talking points mentioned, among other things, [Broidy’s] ongoing relationship and work with [Malaysia], and identified lMDB as a “[p]riority[.]” The talking points noted the lack of harm caused by lMDB, and specified that “[t]he involvement of US prosecutors has caused unnecessary tension American [sic], and could cause a negative reaction among Malaysians[.]”
All in all the prosecutors allege that Broidy “greatly exaggerated his efforts regarding the lMDB investigation” and that Najib achieved few of his aims, since the Department of Justice was not prevailed upon to drop the case over 1MDB.
On the other hand, whilst this recent set of charges are only directed against the lobbyist Nickie Lum Davies the likelihood of further actions against Elliot Broidy seem almost inevitable given his involvement in the secret lobbying described.
This is not least because the charges continue to detail a second secret undertaking that Lum Davies embarked upon for Jho Low in which Broidy became equally involved together with the already indicted Pras Michel and his lawyer George Higginbotham.
This was the intensive lobbying of Broidy’s same set of contacts in the White House on behalf of China to influence the Americans to extradite a wanted exile and critic of the Chinese state, namely Steve Bannon’s own client Guo Wenghui (as reported by Sarawak Report earlier this year).
Broidy travelled to Shenzhen in China, together with Pras Michel and Lum Davies at Jho Low’s request, to meet with Jho and a Chinese Minister who sought a visit to Washington DC to cut a deal to enforce a Red Notice request put out on the billionaire businessman by the Chinese authorities.
The lobbyists agreed to assist Jho Low’s Chinese state clients in this matter and he later paid them a total of $10 million, according to court papers.
Broidy then proceeded to lobby his contacts in the State Department and influential friends and advisors to Donald Trump seeking to get high level meetings for the minister during his visit to DC and to organise a prisoner swap that would have included sending Guo back to his almost certain execution back in China.
Again, officials in Washington prevailed against such lobbying and Broidy failed to pull off a meeting either with Attorney General Jeff Sessions or National Security Advisor H R McMaster as expected.
When it turned out that H R McMaster, instead of being in Washington to meet with the Vice Minister, was away in Haiti, Brody’s clients were most unhappy:
“Just spoke to VM and he sounded like he was crying[said Davies]” [Broidy] responded, “Terrible. What a mess. Bottom line not our fault. Normally their Amb would handle. This is a cluster fl:*]ck.”
On or about May 31, 2017, DAVIS texted [Broidy] with respect to PRC Minister A’s purported meeting with Person I [H R McMaster], “In principal [Person I] us ok- just a schedule issue?” [Broidy] responded, “Just a short notice scheduling issue. Still might hear in next hour or so. There is no issue with [PRC Minister A].” [Broidy] later continued, “Please pass along my good wishes to the VM. Wait a little while longer.” DAVIS responded, “Yes, I’m telling him that.” Person B replied, “Tell him I’m telling WH and [Attorney General] what happened.” DAVIS then texted,”Isn’t [Person I] scheduled to be in Haiti this afternoon?” [Broidy] responded, “Scheduler did not mention this?? Are you sure? Neither did [Attorney General’]s people[.]” DAVIS responded, “It’s on the DHS website[.] He’s there for the afternoon[.] Just spoke to VM and he sounded like he was crying[.]” [Broidy] responded, “Terrible. What a mess. Bottom line not our fault. Normally their Amb would handle. This is a cluster fl:*]ck.”
Given the content of the Hawaii court case speculation is now raging that there is likely to be a further imminent arrest of yet another former high profile Trump advisor. Broidy resigned in 2018 following revelations of a secret settlement organised by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen (now himself jailed) between him and a pregnant Playboy model.
Malaysians can perhaps take heart that almost as many high profile people have been shamed and arrested in the United States as in Kuala Lumpur, and plenty of them over 1MDB.