This morning, Newsweek published a rather sensationalist (and hypocritical) story on Trump's involvement with a consulting firm that took a scouting trip to Cuba in 1998.
Here's the gist.
Trump's company apparently hired a consulting firm, Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corporation ("Seven Arrows"), to do a scouting trip to Cuba in 1998. Months after, Seven Arrows billed Trump's company over $68,000 for the trip.
In the late 1990s — like today — the Bill Clinton Administration was licensing and encouraging U.S. companies to take scouting trips to Cuba, with the hope they would return and lobby Congress to ease the sanctions that he codified into law in 1996. Sound familiar? At the time, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was forming coalitions to do business in Cuba with the same zeal as today.
Also, like today, these scouting trips could be legally licensed. What was illegal — and remains illegal (with the statutory exceptions of telecom connections, and cash sales for agriculture, medicine, and medical equipment) — is actually transacting business with the Castro regime.
Hence, if Seven Arrows didn't obtain an OFAC license for the trip and (after-the-fact) sought to cover up the motive, then there should be legal consequences against Seven Arrows and any Trump executives that knowingly colluded with it.
However, Trump never transacted business with the Castro regime, as the Newsweek article claims. To the contrary, Trump concluded that those who seek to do business with the Castro regime were mistaken.
Trump even penned an op-ed in The Miami Herald in 1999, in which he admits:
"Several large European investment groups have asked me to take the 'Trump Magic' to Cuba. They have 'begged' me to form partnerships to build casino-hotels in Havana. With the influx of foreign tourists, we would make a fortune, they promise, and they are no doubt right. They are also right to say that this type of arrangement would allow me to skirt the U. S.-imposed embargo. But rushing to join those who would do business in Cuba would do more than that. It would place me directly at odds with the longstanding U. S. policy of isolating Fidel Castro. I had a choice to make: huge profits or human rights. For me, it was a no-brainer."
Perhaps he deserves some kudos for this.
However, it's fascinating to watch those who are currently working to hand the Castro regime billions of dollars — beginning with the Obama Administration, Clinton campaign, and its talking heads — now attacking Trump for this $68,000 consulting expenditure.
Moreover, how those actively advocating for U.S. business, banks, and travelers to skirt current sanctions law — which remains the same as in 1998 — are now wagging their finger.
So perhaps there's an opportunity here.
Maybe we can all agree now that doing business with the Castro dictatorship is bad; that U.S. law must be respected; and OFAC should take enforcement action against those who violate it.
Mauricio Claver-Carone is the executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates in Washington, D.C. Mauricio also is a co-founder and director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. He has served as an attorney-adviser for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Claver-Carone’s work has been featured in a variety of publications including, The New York Times, Politico, and The Hill. Claver-Carone is also the editor of the blog Capitol Hill Cubans. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.