Trump hosts scandal-hit Malaysian PM

Washington (AFP) –


US President Donald Trump will on Tuesday host Malaysia's prime minister in the White House for wide-ranging talks, giving his guest a welcome respite from a spiraling corruption scandal.

Prime Minister Najib Razak will be greeted in the Oval Office, for talks the White House says will focus on terrorism, trade and Asian maritime disputes.

"The United States and Malaysia have had a 60-year relationship and partnership built on common economic and security interests, and that continues," said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

She listed "strengthen counterterrorism cooperation," halting the Islamic State group, "addressing North Korea" and "making sure that we promote maritime security in the South China Sea" as topics for discussion.

Trump is also likely to reiterate thanks for Malaysia's efforts to assist the USS John S. McCain, which collided with a tanker as the destroyer was on its way to Singapore, tearing a huge hole in the hull and leaving 10 sailors dead.

Najib faces allegations that billions were looted from a sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), in complex overseas deals that are being investigated by authorities in several countries, including the United States.

Both the prime minister and the fund deny any wrongdoing. The Justice Department has filed civil lawsuits to seize assets, from high-end real estate to artworks, it says are worth about $1.7 billion.

Sanders refused to say whether that case would come up.

"Look, we're not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by the Department of Justice," she said. "That investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place tomorrow."

One Justice Department investigation the White House has been willing to comment on is that investigating the Trump campaign's ties Russia.

Trump has also denied any wrongdoing.