Newsweek Says Donald Trump Did Illegal Business in Cuba

Donald Trump will have a hard time showing his face at Versailles ever again.

Just two days ago, Trump stood on a stage in Miami, said he had a deep love and respect for Miami's Cuban community, and added that Cubans immigrant deserve "the right deal" to renegotiate the American embargo on the island. Then he sucked down a colada during an impromptu visit to the Calle Ocho landmark Versailles Restaurant.

As if it weren't clear enough already that this was all a bunch of hogwash, a report Newsweek is set to release today proves Trump was full of orange baloney the entire time. The magazine reports that Donald Trump violated the Cuban embargo by doing illegal business in that country beginning in the 1990s.

MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow obtained a few advanced excerpts from the report last night. 

"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 make such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records, and court filings," the story says, according to MSNBC:
Most polls say Trump and Hillary Clinton are in a dead heat to win Florida — Newsweek's report could sway some undecided Cuban voters (particularly older ones) against Trump. This will hurt in Miami-Dade County.

Maddow obtained a few more choice quotes: "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 government approval. But the company did not spend the money directly."

Instead, the story says, Trump company executives funneled cash through a consulting firm "with Trump's knowledge," and then that consulting firm helped Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts mask the expenditure by pretending, "after the fact," that the money was a charitable donation.

The donation came months before Trump launched his first bid for the presidency, running on the Reform Party ticket. Newsweek reminded readers that Trump immediately flew to Miami and told the city's Cuban community he vowed to (1) Maintain the embargo and (2) never spend his money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power.

"He did not disclose that, seven months earlier, Trump Hotels already had spent money sending consultants on the secret trip to conduct business in Havana," the report says.

During the current presidential race, Trump has said he would reverse all of Obama's decisions to relax the embargo and would refuse to lessen any sanctions on the island nation until Castro released political prisoners and restored some civil rights.

But it seems Trump believed those sanctions never really applied to him.

Firms that violate the embargo are typically fined. The Miami Herald reported this past February that the U.S. Department of the Treasury has levied more than $5 million in fines against eight companies since December 17, 2014, when the U.S. began normalizing relations with Cuba.

Here's the entire Maddow segment:
This isn't the first time this summer that Trump has been accused of violating the Cuban embargo: In July, Bloomberg News reported that Trump Organization advisers illegally traveled to Cuba to conduct unauthorized business in 2012 and 2013. 

That piece didn't delve into Trump's company records and court filings. Nor did it say definitively whether the candidate's firm spent any money there. (Even though it sure appears he did.) It seems Newsweek investigative reporter Kurt Eichenwald has pinned the proverbial tail on the donkey.

Newsweek published its full investigation at 6 a.m. today. We'll update this post as more information becomes available.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.