First Kurt Eichenwald dove into Donald Trump's business ties abroad. Now, in a new éxposé for Newsweek, the writer reveals Trump's company secretly conducted business in Cuba in the late '90s, even though such dealings were illegal under the American trade embargo. Based on interviews with ex-Trump execs, court docs, and company records, Eichenwald documents how Trump sought the presidential nomination from the Reform Party in 1999 and made a campaign stop to speak to Cuban Americans in Miami, where he swore he'd never spend a dime in Cuba as long as Castro was in charge. Yet months earlier, executives from Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts had already blown $68,000 during a Havana junket, ostensibly to explore possible future development opportunities. The money for the trip, later linked to a charity, came from a US consulting firm that was later reimbursed, Eichenwald says. A former Trump exec notes Trump knew about the trip and had conversations about it.
The problem: At that time, Americans could only go to Cuba with US permission for a very few legal reasons, and because US citizens and companies weren't allowed to spend money in Cuba, a foreign entity (in this case, a Cuban charity) had to pay for all expenses. Plus, the Office of Foreign Assets Control would have needed to have granted a license to the company and/or the execs who traveled there, and no proof of such a license has been unearthed. Eichenwald notes, however, the statute of limitations on these dealings has run out, and so neither Trump nor anyone involved would now be prosecuted. "As you know … putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn't go to the people of Cuba," Trump told the group of Cuban Americans during the 1999 event. "It goes to Fidel Castro. … He's a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down." (Read Eichenwald's deep dive at Newsweek.)