TO put it simply, Prime Minister Najib Razak found a kindred spirit in United States President Donald Trump in their historic White House encounter in Washington DC.
What was to have been a short one-on-one meeting between the two leaders and a bilateral session between the Malaysian delegation and US officials became a 45-minute private chat between Najib and Trump.
Sources told The Malaysian Insight that Trump empathised with PM Najib, saying that he, too, was ridiculed as a dictator and authoritarian by his opponents.
They also were victims of fake news, the US president said, using his favourite euphemism for the news reports he disagreed with from American newspapers and broadcasters.
Officials also noted that no press conference was scheduled after the meeting but both leaders had an impromptu session to disclose their discussions.
It is understood from the meetings that Trump will visit Malaysia this November to ink several agreements, including Malaysia’s purchase of Boeing planes.
Trump would be the second US president to visit Kuala Lumpur in recent times with the last being president Barack Obama in 2015 and 2014.
There is now the possibility of Malaysia Airlines buying up to 50 long-haul Boeing 787 Dreamliners aircraft, officials said.
The Reuters news agency reported that the Malaysian flag carrier has agreed to buy eight aircraft costing RM7.6 billion (US$1.8 billion).
But Trump told reporters after meeting Najib that the two countries discussed large trade pacts and a deal involving Boeing jets where Malaysia will purchase between US$10 billion (RM42 billion) and US$20 billion of Boeing jets and General Electric jet engines.
A clearly ebullient Najib told reporters that Malaysia planned to invest between US$3 billion and US$4 billion to support US infrastructure programmes.
Najib also pointed out to Trump that Malaysia’s largest pension fund, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) had seen its equities stake rise from US$3 billion to about US$7 billion under his rule.
Another Malaysian source told The Malaysian Insight that both Malaysia and the US will likely sign a trade deal by 2019, a year after the US provides a visa waiver to Malaysians travelling to the country.
A trade deal between both nations was scuppered when Trump ditched the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact that began during the Obama administration.
Officials close to the prime minister believe that close ties between Trump and Najib could pave the way for some form of resolution to the US Department of Justice (DoJ) twin suits and criminal investigation into the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) kleptocracy case.
It is understood that Trump administration officials do not seem to have the same appetite as the Obama administration for the DoJ case, believing that there are more important battles to be fought against terrorism and a belligerent North Korea with Malaysia as a strategic partner.
Still, there is a question on whether Trump will want to expend his political goodwill to soft pedal a case called one of the biggest thefts in the world.
Malaysia’s opposition and civil society have been dismayed that Najib was invited to the White House, given the 1MDB scandal and his alleged role in it.
US commentators hoped that Trump would use the American visit to lecture Najib on the persecution of his political opponents.
Instead, the opposite happened, with Trump noting that he and Najib shared much in common. Trump, who took office last January, is seen as one of the most unpopular US presidents with the lowest approval ratings, similar to Najib.
Like Najib, Trump has forged on and has even sacked officials close to him in the first few months of his administration. Najib sacked a number of officials, including his deputy prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, in 2015, six years after taking power.