Closer scrutiny of the documents that the former aide to Donald Trump, Healy Baumgardner-Nardone, filed with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently, has shed light on the working relationship between her company and the Malaysian government.
It reveals that the little-known Godfrey Group is supposed to direct the activities of her company, The 45 Group LLC, to enhance US-Malaysia relations, while the Malaysian government will play a consultative role.
Baumgardner-Nardone was required by US law to declare the nature of agreements between her company and foreign interests.
As part of a registration statement filed with the DOJ, she stated that “while the activities of the registrant are in support of strengthening the relationship between the US and the Republic of Malaysia [sic], the foreign principal (the Republic of Malaysia) is not supervising, controlling, or financing the effort.
“The Godfrey Group Ltd is directing all activities. However, Malaysian government officials will be consulted and engaged in outreach efforts within the US.”
The Godfrey Group was described in the DOJ filings as a company incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, but with a registered office and phone number matching that of a Johor Bahru-based charity.
Malaysiakini has been attempting to contact the Johor Bahru-based charity for comment since yesterday and is awaiting a response.
In the documents, it was revealed that the Godfrey Group had agreed to pay The 45 Group US$25,000 per month in exchange for The 45 Group’s assistance in “strengthening bilateral relations between Malaysia and the United States”.
The 45 Group also declared that it had already received US$250,000 from the Godfrey Group on May 9.
Pandan MP Mohd Rafizi Ramli alleged last week that Malaysia had engaged Baumgardner-Nardone’s lobbying services, although the Prime Minister’s Office has denied any links with her, The 45 Group, and the Godfrey Group.
Baumgardner-Nardone had declared in the DOJ filings that she was acting on behalf of the “Office of the Prime Minister”, and had named Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as the primary official her company dealt with. The Prime Minister’s Office’s address in Putrajaya was also listed.
Following Putrajaya’s denial of the accusations, Rafizi challenged the government to take action against Baumgardner-Nardone if her claims to be acting on Malaysia’s behalf were indeed false.
Who owns The 45 Group
Another set of documents in DOJ’s records describes The 45 Group’s incorporation.
It reveals that The 45 Group is in fact one of two DBAs (‘doing business as’; similar to a trademark) owned by Baumgardner-Nardone’s public relations firm Mona Lisa Communications LLC. The other DBA is Litigation War Room.
Mona Lisa Communications LCC registered The 45 Group as a DBA in West Virginia on Jan 12 this year, while the Litigation War Room was registered in April 26, 2013, according to the document.
Litigation War Room is reportedly a public relations company specialising in mass-tort lawsuits.
The 45 Group’s address in the agreement with the Godfrey Group matched that of a West Virginia-based law firm, which, according to another document filed by Baumgardner-Nardone, had helped set up the group. However, the phone number listed in the agreement was for a different place.
Errors in documents
Despite the formal nature of the DOJ filings, there are factual errors and discrepancies in the documents.
The forms that Baumgardner-Nardone submitted repeatedly refer to Malaysia as “The Republic of Malaysia”, which contradicts the fact that Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy. By definition, a republic is a form of government where the head of state is not a monarch.
In what is apparently a typographical error, she also provided an address for the Godfrey Group that is different from the one mentioned in the agreement between the Godfrey Group and The 45 Group.
The two addresses differed in one digit in the Johor Bahru address’ two-digit lot number.
The filings with the DOJ are compulsory under the US Foreign Agent Registration Act 1938 (Fara), which requires lobbyists acting on behalf of foreign interests to register themselves. The documents are then made available to the public.
Baumgardner-Nardone’s filings can be found by searching for the registration number “6432” on the Fara website. It was filed with the DOJ on May 19 this year.