Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida believes GOP nominee Donald Trump should respond to allegations that one of his companies illegally circumvented the Cuban trade embargo.
On Sept. 29, Rubio was asked about the accusations during a sit-down with the ESPN/ABC “Capital Games” podcast.
“This is something they’re going to have to give a response to,” Rubio said of the Trump campaign, according to ABC News. “I mean, it was a violation of American law, if that’s how it happened.”
In 1998, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts had paid roughly $68,000 to the consulting firm Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. to explore business opportunities in the embargoed Cuba, Newsweek reports.
Any spending in the island nation at that time required approval from the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control, but the Trump company never sought the license. An anonymous OFAC official said the office would never have approved an American casino to explore business opportunities in Cuba.
“If OFAC discovered this and found there was evidence of willful misconduct, they could have made a referral to the Department of Justice,” said Richard Matheny, the chair of Goodwin’s national security and foreign trade regulation group.
A former Trump executive who had requested anonymity confirmed the GOP nominee had been aware of the business dealing as it was happening.
In 1999, Trump launched a presidential bid to become the Reform Party nominee. During a campaign appearance with the Cuban American National Foundation, the business mogul pledged to uphold the Cuban embargo.
“As you know -- and the people in this room know better than anyone -- putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba,” Trump told the foundation. “It goes to [President] Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer. He’s a killer ... the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.”
Both Trump Hotels and Seven Arrows allegedly hid the transaction after the fact by pretending the consulting firm had been paid by a Catholic charity.
Rubio, who is of Cuban descent and a staunch opponent of the Castro regime, believes Trump must answer the allegations.
“I hope the Trump campaign is going to come forward and answer some questions about this, because if what the article says is true -- and I’m not saying that it is, we don’t know with 100 percent certainty -- I’d be deeply concerned about it,” Rubio said.
The Florida senator had battled Trump during the GOP primary, dropping out after he was defeated in his home state. He endorsed Trump in May.
On Sept. 29, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway stated that Trump had paid money to explore investments in Cuba during an appearance on ABC’s “The View.”
“Read the entire story,” Conway said, reports The Washington Post. “It starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba. And it turns out that he decided not to invest there. I think they paid money, as I understand ... But again, we’re talking about, did his hotel invest money in 1998 in Cuba? No.”
The issue with Conway’s defense is that Trump has not been accused of investing in Cuba, but having illegally spent money to explore opportunities in the island nation in the first place.