Following a report by CBS News, Newsweek has just published a story about a Donald Trump Cuba connection that could rock his campaign with yet another damaging scandal. This Newsweek article seems to confirm that Trump knowingly and secretly engaged in business transactions with Cuba in direct violation of the United States Cuban Trade Embargo.
Even though it’s become almost a cliché to say there is a Trump scandal, this possible violation of United States law regarding trade with Cuba could be worse than all the rest. While we are still waiting for Julian Assange’s October surprise for Hillary Clinton, it may be that Donald Trump has just experienced a nasty September surprise of his own.
First released by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, this information is derived from a story written for Newsweek by Kurt Eichenwald. The article was published in full by Newsweek on Thursday, and it included further details and evidence. According to Maddow, the information used in the Newsweek article was obtained from former Trump corporation executives, company records, and court records.
As reported by Maddow, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts secretly engaged in business activities on the island of Cuba in 1998. While in theory, it was possible to get a license from the United States government through the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to carry out certain specific trade in Cuba with Castro’s regime, the secretive Donald Trump Cuba enterprise didn’t bother obtaining a license. This was done despite the fact that those involved discussed, after the fact, that such a license was required.
The reason for this “oversight” may have been the recognition by Trump and his executives that such a license would not have been forthcoming. One anonymous OFAC official confirmed for Newsweek that the agency would never have granted a casino operation such a license.
Instead of a license, Trump appears to have retroactively used a backdoor method of hiding the $68,000 in transactions. As seems to have become a habit with Donald Trump, he used a charity to funnel this money through a middleman so it would seem to have been simply a charitable, and therefore legal, activity.
The principal impetus behind the Trump Cuba foray was provided by European businesses that had contacted Trump about investing in Cuba. Some United States officials and senators were proposing a change in the United States policy in Cuba, and Trump apparently wanted in on the ground floor. Moreover, Trump was desperate because of the position of his company at the time.
A fascinating aspect of this story is that only a few months later in 1999, Donald Trump was standing before an organization of Cuban-Americans in Miami affirming his commitment to maintaining the embargo against Cuba at all costs and rejecting the idea that he would ever do business with Castro. If the Newsweek story about Trump’s business activities in Cuba is confirmed, then this speech will represent the ultimate in hypocrisy.
“But almost every dollar would go to prop up the police-state. Why? Because foreign investors cannot legally do business with private Cuban citizens. They can go into business only with the Castro government. I would rather take a financial hit than become a financial backer of one of the world’s most-brutal dictators.”
Not surprisingly, Trump failed to mention in the speech that he had apparently been carrying out precisely that kind of financial engagement with the Castro regime only a few months before. Of course, a point by point description of the Donald Trump’s Cuba connection probably wouldn’t have gone over well with his audience.
But an even greater appearance of hypocrisy came with Trump’s later flip-flops on United States policies regarding the tiny island nation. While initially enthusiastic about Barack Obama’s decision to loosen restrictions on Cuba, the Associated Press reports that Trump this month threatened to reimpose sanctions in full force if Cuba refused further concessions.
If proven, Donald Trump’s Cuba venture could, at least in theory, have very serious legal consequences for the Republican Party presidential nominee. Although the statute of limitations for violation of these regulations is normally five years, the law allows for an extension if a conspiracy is involved.
And what Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts allegedly did seems very much like a conspiracy. Assuming that there was sufficient evidence to try Donald Trump for such activities in Cuba in the 1990s, Trump, again in theory, could get up to 10 years in prison.
As ABC News reported Friday, the Trump campaign used a familiar tactic of blaming the media sources. This is an old song Trump sings whenever things go wrong, which is quite frequently.
In response to this, USA Today reports that the Clinton campaign pounced on the news and issued a statement about the allegations.
“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. 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”
Donald Trump’s Cuba dream may be about to turn into a nightmare for him and the Republican Party.
[Featured Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]