Trump Violated Cuba Embargo, Campaign Manager Thinks

| by Zach Cohen
Donald TrumpDonald Trump

Responding to a Sept. 29 report from Newsweek that Donald Trump's company violated the U.S. embargo on doing business in Cuba, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said she believes money changed hands. 

"I think they paid money, as I understand from the story," Conway said to ABC, The Washington Post reports.

Newsweek got the story from a former executive in Trump's company, who spoke on condition of anonymity. According to the source, Trump was approached by several European businesses who were interested in investing together in Cuba.

On behalf of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, consultants from a firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. traveled to Cuba, with Trump's knowledge, to scope out potential development opportunities. The consultants incurred expenses during their trip at a time when spending "even a penny" in the embargoed country was illegal.

Trump's company reimbursed the consultants in the amount of at least $68,000, according to an invoice published by Newsweek. The consultants instructed senior officers at Trump's company to "funnel" the money through a charity to make the transaction appear legal. 

Conway criticized the story. "It starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba," she said, according to The Washington Post.

She then pointed out that the activity in question happened, "in 1998. -- and we're not supposed to talk about years ago when it comes to the Clintons."

Even though Trump Hotels did not directly spend money in Cuba, reimbursing Seven Arrows consultants for the trip would still constitute a violation of the embargo.

Richard Matheny, chair of law firm Goodwin Procter's foreign trade regulation group told Newsweek, "The money that the Trump company paid to the consultant is money that a Cuban national has an interest in and was spent on an understanding it would be reimbursed. That would be illegal." The exploratory trip never resulted in an investment.

Trump launched his first presidential campaign in 1999 at a speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami, where he promised that he would never spend his money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power. 

Florida's Cuban-American population is crucial to Trump's electoral strategy, according to Politico. Miami-Dade county is Florida's largest Republican stronghold, according to Politico. Of Miami-Dade's Republicans, 72% are Hispanic, mostly of Cuban origin. In general, this group strongly opposed lifting the embargo.

Florida has a nearly 20% chance of "tipping" the election, according to poll analysis from 538.com, the highest odds of any other state. In other words, according to 538's statistical models, Florida's 29 electoral votes "will provide the decisive vote," putting one of the candidates over the 270 electoral votes they need to declare victory.

On Sept. 29, the date of the Newsweek story, 538 predicted a 0.4% margin of victory for Clinton in Florida. 

Sources: Newsweek, The Washington Post, Politico, 538 (2) (3) / Photo credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

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