Trump's Reported Cuba Business May Affect Florida Votes

| by Sam Gravity
Trump blasting Castro at the Bay of Pigs Association in Little Havana in 1999. Tim Chapman/Miami HeraldTrump blasting Castro at the Bay of Pigs Association in Little Havana in 1999. Tim Chapman/Miami Herald

Republican candidate Donald Trump reportedly conducted business in Cuba through his hotel and resorts company when the U.S. forbade any business on the island nation.

The Sept. 29 Newsweek cover story says that in 1998, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid a consulting firm $68,000 to prepare possible investment opportunities between officials and business leaders in Cuba in case economic sanctions lifted.

At the time, the expenditure of any American company or citizen in Cuba was illegal unless sponsored by a charitable entity, making the investment by Trump Hotels a direct violation of federal law.

The Trump campaign did not issue an immediate statement regarding the allegations, but in a television interview with ABC's "The View" the same day, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway affirmed that Trump spent money in Cuba at the time.

“[The cover story] starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba,” she said. “And it turns out that he decided not to invest there. They paid money, as I understand, in 1998.”

Regardless of whether Trump invested in Cuba, paying money for the business trip would have directly violated the law at the time -- which forbade any U.S. dollars spent in Cuba without humanitarian sponsorship, Newsweek reports. The cover story goes on to say the money was later declared as a donation to a Catholic charity doing work on the island to mask the expenditure as government-approved.

“Trump’s business with Cuba appears to have broken the law, flouted U.S. foreign policy and is in complete contradiction to Trump’s own repeated, public statements that he had been offered opportunities to invest in Cuba but passed them up,” Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “This latest report shows once again that Trump will always put his own business interest ahead of the national interest -- and has no trouble lying about it.” 

Allegations against the Republican candidate may impact him on the campaign trail in upcoming weeks, as Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida’s endorsement of Trump falters concerning Trump’s business in Cuba under President Fidel Castro.

“I hope the Trump campaign is gonna come forward and answer some questions about this because if what the article says is true ... I’d be deeply concerned about it, I would,” said Rubio in an interview on the ESPN/ABC “Capital Games” podcast. Rubio strongly supports the current U.S. embargo on Cuba.

“This is something they’re gonna have to give a response to,” said Rubio. “I mean, it was a violation of American law, if that’s how it happened.”

Sources: Newsweek, The Washington Post, Hillary for America, ABC News / Photo credit: Tim Chapman/Miami Herald

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