Donald Trump's company violated federal law by sending executives to Cuba and spending at least $68,000 there in an attempt to open a casino, a new Newsweek report says.
The magazine cites former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings.
Trump representatives traveled to the island in 1998 to meet with government officials and business leaders, Newsweek reported. A former Trump executive said the company did not obtain a license to travel to the island and spent thousands of dollars there -- in direct violation of the U.S. embargo.
The revelations could affect the vote in the key swing state of Florida, home to over a million Cuban Americans. In Miami Dade county, almost two-thirds of Republican voters are Hispanic, most of whom are Cuban.
“The article makes some very serious and troubling allegations," said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, according to The Miami Herald. "I will reserve judgment until we know all the facts and Donald has been given the opportunity to respond.”
Trump’s company funneled the cash through Seven Arrows Investment and Development Corp, an American consulting firm, Newsweek said. The company then told Trump executives how to make the expenses look legal by linking them to a charitable effort.
Trump was aware of the visit and the cash transfer and participated in discussions about the trip, Newsweek reported.
A Treasury Department spokesperson contacted by Univision said "the Treasury generally does not comment on whether or not it has issued a specific license."
In the face of allegations, Miami Dade County Republican Party chairman Nelson Díaz defended Trump Thursday.
"As I understand it, the story was created by a disgruntled former partner of Mr. Trump’s who ended up in litigation with Mr. Trump and now has an ax to grind," Díaz told Univision. "There is little to no evidence that Mr. Trump sanctioned any activity in Cuba in violation of the US embargo."
Díaz said Trump’s company may have explored the situation “at the time when it looked like Bill Clinton was going to try to lift the embargo, but we don’t have any facts at all,” he added.
In July, Bloomberg reported that Trump executives also traveled to Cuba in 2012 or 2013, potentially in violation of the embargo.
Critics of Trump, including several prominent local Republicans, seized on the news to pour doubt on Trump's recent overtures to conservative Cuban exiles during two recent visits.
Miami-based Republican strategist and CNN politicla commentator, Ana Navarro, wrote on Twitter:
She also added that the report could turn off Cuban American voters. "Some Cuban-Am's will still vote for him. Some will peel off b/c of his lies & hypocrisy. It's FL. Can't afford to lose 1!" she tweeted.
Trump campaigned in Miami Tuesday, meeting with Cuban American voters. This month, he said he would reverse President Obama's executive action on Cuba and demand concessions from the Cuban government.
Trump has used his bid for president to advertise his business ventures, including those abroad. And he boasts using the law to his advantage.
"I built an unbelievable company, some of the greatest ... real estate assets anywhere in the world, beyond the United States," Trump said during the presidential debate Monday. "But I take advantage of the laws of the nation."
David Adams contributed to this report.