Revelations that Donald Trump’s hotel and casino company secretly spent money trying to do business in Cuba in violation of the U.S. trade embargo roiled Miami politics Thursday, forcing top Cuban-American Republicans to express concern about Trump’s dealings while maintaining that the allegation isn’t reason enough to disavow the presidential nominee yet.
Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts paid at least $68,000 to a consulting firm in late 1998 in an attempt to give Trump’s business a head start in Cuba if the U.S. loosened or lifted trade sanctions, according to a front-page Newsweek report titled “The Castro Connection.” The consulting firm, Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp., later instructed the casino company to make the spending appear legal by saying it was for charity.
Trump’s most prominent local Cuban-American supporter, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, called the report “troubling.”
“The article makes some very serious and troubling allegations,” he said in a campaign statement. “I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.”
U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami, who has espoused a strong pro-embargo position throughout his political career, struck a similar tone, saying for now he gives Trump the benefit of the doubt.
“What we have so far are unnamed sources,” he cautioned reporters, calling the Newsweek report “preliminary.” “It’s important to see what the facts are.”
Hillary Clinton pounced on the story, saying it exposed a “pattern” of obfuscation by Trump on his business dealings. Clinton is scheduled to visit Coral Springs on Friday, with polls showing her and Trump essentially tied in Florida, the nation’s largest swing state.
An earlier version of this story was posted Thursday morning.