Donald Trump’s campaign manager appeared to unwittingly confirm an explosive Newsweek story on Thursday, telling ABC’s The View that a Trump company did indeed spend money in Cuba in 1998, in violation of a longstanding U.S. embargo that Trump has vociferously defended.
Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald reported on Thursday that Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts spent at least $68,000 in 1998 in Cuba, “at a time when the corporate expenditure of even a penny in the Caribbean country was prohibited without U.S. government approval.” The story notes that “with Trump’s knowledge, executives funneled the cash for the Cuba trip through an American consulting firm.” After the consultants traveled to Cuba and spent the funds, the consultants instructed Trump’s company on “how to make it appear legal by linking it after the fact to a charitable effort.”
Asked about the report, Conway first tried to defend Trump by pointing out that the company ultimately decided not to invest in Cuba and therefore was “not treasonous.”
“Read the entire story. It starts out with a screaming headline, as it usually does, that he did business in Cuba. And then it turns out he decided not to invest there.”
Asked if she was denying that they spent the funds, she conceded: “I think they paid money, as I understand from the story, they paid money in 1998.” Conway then attempted to claim a double standard, “We’re not supposed to talk about years ago when it comes to the Clinton, but with Trump, there is no statute of limitations ever.”
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) September 29, 2016
Conway then noted that Trump has been “very critical of Cuba” and gave a speech to the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami “critical of those who want to do business with Castro” a year later.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who has endorsed Trump after losing the Republican nomination to the millionaire real estate investor, said on Thursday that the allegations are “very serious and troubling” and called on Trump’s campaign to answer the questions raised by the report.
UPDATE: BuzzFeed’s Kyle Blaine reported on Thursday afternoon that the Trump campaign distributed talking points to surrogates urging them to dismiss Eichenwald as a “totally discredited reporter” with “manufactured reports,” to dismiss this and other reports as “being from “10, 20, or even 30 years” back, and to change the subject to the Clinton’s “special interest donors.”
Eichenwald responded with a Tweet noting that the Trump campaign still has not addressed the allegations.
Soon after, on MSNBC, Trump surrogate Steve Cortes acknowledged much of Eichenwald’s report, but argued, “If this was a violation, I think it was an incredibly technical one” and “if he had a technical violation there, I don’t think we can really fault him much for that.”