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White House defends foreign leader under DOJ investigation, says it was fine to stay at Trump hotel

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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.

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.

Following their meeting at the White House earlier in the day on Tuesday, Trump and Razak made a brief appearance before reporters. According to Fox News, neither leader mentioned the scandal or DOJ probe.

Instead, after Razak mentioned purchases his government is making of American-made planes, Trump pointed out that Malaysia is a “massive investor in the United States in terms of stocks and bonds.”

“They have to be very happy because we are hitting new highs on almost a weekly basis,” Trump said. “We’re very proud of our stock market, what’s happened since I became president.”

— Aaron Rupar contributed writing.

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