Throughout the presidential campaign and since taking office, President Donald Trump and his staff have characterized the Obama administration’s policy toward Cuba as a “bad deal” for Americans. There were several reports during the campaign, however, that the Trump Organization had been exploring business in Cuba, with some indicating that such explorations were in direct violation of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
Reporter Kurt Eichenwald wrote in an Newsweek article that in 1998, a company controlled by Donald Trump, then called Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, had secretly conducted business in Cuba without U.S. approval and thus in direct violation of the Cuba embargo. According to the report, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts’ executives, with Trump’s knowledge, paid for an American consulting firm called Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp. to travel to Cuba to explore and develop business opportunities for the company there.
At the time this took place, American individuals and companies were prohibited from spending any cash in Cuba with very few exceptions, specifically for humanitarian efforts and telecommunications exports. Additionally, the U.S. government had to provide permission for travel to the country, which it only granted for a limited number of reasons. Trade experts told Newsweek that without a license from the federal government—which Trump Hotels lacked according to a former Trump executive and internal documents regarding the trip—travel to Cuba would have been in violation of federal law.