Latest Trump Scandal: ‘The Castro Connection’

Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald has another damning investigative report into Donald Trmp’s foreign business activities and conflicts of interest. This one is going to cost him with Cuban voters in must-win Florida. How Donald Trump’s Company Violated The United State Embargo Against Cuba:

NewsweekCoverA company controlled by Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, secretly conducted business in Communist Cuba during Fidel Castro’s presidency despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.

Documents show that the Trump company spent a minimum of $68,000 for its 1998 foray into Cuba at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly.

Instead, with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. Once the business consultants traveled to the island and incurred the expenses for the venture, Seven Arrows instructed senior officers with Trump’s company—then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts—how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.

Trumphotelscubabill

On February 8, 1999, Seven Arrows billed Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. for the $68,551.88 it had incurred prior to and including a trip to Cuba on behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts Inc.

The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami, where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had reimbursed its consultants for the money they spent on their secret business trip to Havana.

At the time, Americans traveling to Cuba had to receive specific U.S. government permission, which was granted only for an extremely limited number of purposes, such as humanitarian efforts. Neither an American nor a company based in the United States could spend any cash in Cuba; instead, a foreign charity or similar sponsoring entity needed to pay all expenses, including travel. Without obtaining a license from the federal Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) before the consultants went to Cuba, the undertaking by Trump Hotels would have been in violation of federal law, trade experts say.

Officials with the Trump campaign and the Trump Organization did not respond to emails seeking comment on the Cuba trip, further documentation about the endeavor or an interview with Trump. Richard Fields, who was then the principal in charge of Seven Arrows, did not return calls seeking comment.

Following the publication of this article on Newsweek.com, Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, was asked about the allegations on the television program The View. She replied that, “They paid money, as I understand, in 1998,” but went on to say that Trump had never invested in the Caribbean nation. In that statement, Conway has acknowledged that Trump broke the law. Paying the money for the business trip and meetings in Cuba – regardless of whether it resulted in an additional investment or casino deal – would directly violate the law.

Screen Shot 2016-09-29 at 3.27.55 PM

A former Trump executive who spoke on condition of anonymity says the company did not obtain a government license prior to the trip. Internal documents show that executives involved in the Cuba project were still discussing the need for federal approval after the trip had taken place.

OFAC officials say there is no record that the agency granted any such license to the companies or individuals involved, although they cautioned that some documents from that time have been destroyed. Yet one OFAC official, who agreed to discuss approval procedures if granted anonymity, says the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino is “essentially zero.”

Eichenwald goes into great depth on the background of the story.

The Miami Herald adds, Trump broke Cuban embargo, report says, roiling Miami politics:

Revelations that Donald Trump’s hotel and casino company secretly spent money trying to do business in Cuba in violation of the U.S. trade embargo roiled Miami politics Thursday, forcing top Cuban-American Republicans to express concern about Trump’s dealings while maintaining that the allegation isn’t reason enough to disavow the presidential nominee yet.

* * *

Trump’s most prominent local Cuban-American supporter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, called the report “troubling.”

“The article makes some very serious and troubling allegations,” he said in a campaign statement. “I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, who has espoused a strong pro-embargo position throughout his political career, struck a similar tone, saying for now he gives Trump the benefit of the doubt.

“What we have so far are unnamed sources,” he cautioned reporters, calling the Newsweek report “preliminary.” “It’s important to see what the facts are.”

Hillary Clinton pounced on the story, saying it exposed a “pattern” of obfuscation by Trump on his business dealings. Clinton is scheduled to visit Coral Springs on Friday, with polls showing her and Trump essentially tied in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state.

“We already know about his tax returns that he refuses to release, but today we learned about his efforts to do business in Cuba, which appear to violate U.S. law — certainly flout American foreign policy,” Clinton told reporters.

“He has consistently misled people in responding to questions about whether he was attempting to do business in Cuba. So this adds to the long list of actions and statements that raise doubts about his temperament and qualification to be president and commander in chief, and also really continue to stonewall the American voters who deserve to know this information before they cast their votes.”

* * *

Newsweek wasn’t the first news outlet to question Trump’s commitment to staying away from Cuba. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in July that Trump Organization executives traveled to Havana in late 2012 or early 2013 to scout potential golf-course sites — again under a White House that favored closer Cuba ties. Politico Florida reported Thursday that John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, said someone from the Trump organization approached him in the mid- to late-1990s about doing business in Cuba.

Unlike other Hispanics, Cuban Americans lean heavily for the GOP: They make up about 72 percent of registered Republicans in Miami-Dade County. However, a recent Florida International University poll showed potential political trouble for Trump: Miami-Dade Cubans only narrowly backed him over Clinton. The same poll showed a majority of local Cuban Americans for the first time clearly favor lifting the embargo.

* * *

The Newsweek report reverberated in Florida beyond the presidential race . . . Rubio’s Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter, accused the incumbent of failing to stand up for his principles.

“Marco Rubio can’t even stand up to Donald Trump when he violates a Cuba policy that Rubio has made a focal point of his political career,” Murphy communications director Joshua Karp said in a statement. “Marco Rubio should disavow Trump or admit that there really isn’t an issue that matters to him more than his own personal political ambition.”

Reporters swarmed Diaz-Balart early Thursday afternoon at Miami International Airport, where he and two other lawmakers held a news conference to tout newly approved congressional funds to fight the Zika virus. Diaz-Balart, who has said he plans to vote for “the Republican nominee,” urged Trump to answer the questions raised by Newsweek, but said he needs more evidence to conclude Trump violated the embargo.

“Doing business in Cuba is illegal, absolutely,” Diaz-Balart conceded. . .

Two other Miami Republicans in Congress, Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have refused to back Trump. Curbelo told the Miami Herald on Thursday that Trump “should explain what happened in 1998.”

“No one is above the law,” he said, though Newsweek reported that the statute of limitations against any action against Trump has expired.

Florida always makes for interesting politics.

5 responses to “Latest Trump Scandal: ‘The Castro Connection’

  1. What are you supposed to make of this one if you think the embargo against Cuba was totally wrong? I know, he still broke the law if the allegations are true. But I just can’t get worked up about this one.

    • I know how you feel. The embargo against Cuba was a giant temper tantrum we had when we weren’t able to overthrow Castro and he embarrassed us. Once emplace, it went on for far too long. It was as if we had to clean the Congress of all those old time members who still took Cuba as a personal affront. It is especially intolerable when you realize we actually supported dictators who were far worse than Castro. And the people who were punished were the Cuban people, not Castro.

    • But there are plenty of anti-Castro Cubans in Florida who do get worked up about it, and elections are won in the margins. If it costs Trump 1 or 2% of the vote, that could be fatal to his campaign. Florida is a must-win state.

      • But does it cut both ways? How well are Hillary’s sanctimonious comments about Trump’s Cuba dealings going to play with Floridians, including many Cubans, who thought the embargo was bullshit? It seems there are hundreds of better attack lines to use against Trump than this one.

  2. I don’t know how Trump did it. How could he micromanage all these large companies in which he had an interest so that HE is guilty of all these violations of the law. I guess he had no subordinates in positions to make decisions on how to run these companies. He doesn’t strike me as a micromanager but he must be or he couldn’t possibly know about all these “possible” violations of the law.

    This is in contrast to Hillary, a micromanager if there ever was one. Strangely, despite micromanaging everything, she remains woefully ignorant about any misdeeds, mistakes, errors. violations, etc., that occur to the programs and things she manages.

    Strange how such a dicotomy exists side by side.