Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald continues to chase down Donald Trump's sordid financial past dealings and this week we discover that America's newest hero of trade protectionist policies and capitalist freedom violated the US embargo on Cuba in the late 90's to deal with the Castro brothers.
A 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 Corporation. 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.
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 only granted 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 Asset Control 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.
But a former Trump executive who spoke on condition of anonymity said 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, said the probability that the office would grant a license for work on behalf of an American casino was “essentially zero.”
In other words, Double-Dealing Donald broke the law, big time, sending a team of consultants to scout out Havana as casino territory while screaming he would never spend a dime in Castro's Communist Cuba. I bet South Florida Republicans are going to be really happy with this news, especially since Trump launched his initial 2000 third-party presidential bid in Miami as Bill Clinton was taking the first steps to try to loosen the embargo.
He wanted in on Cuba cash 16 years before Obama made it cool, and in the end he lied to try to make it look like a charity operation to hide his true intent of looking for a way to open a casino with international partners.
Seems like Trump has a seriously long history of using charities as fronts for his scams. No wonder Republicans have been attacking the Clinton Foundation since Trump got into the race.
We'll see how this plays nationally but I'm betting this story is going to get noticed "bigly" where it will hurt Trump the most: Florida's poll numbers.