President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency went on a trip to Cuba in 2009 aimed at opening relations with the communist nation, WND has learned.
According to the Cuban media, Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., along with his wife, was part of a delegation of five other lawmakers from the Congressional Black Caucus who held a four-and-a-half hour meeting in April 2009 with Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro’s brother.
Raul Castro previously led the Cuban army and was a rebel commander in the 1950s. The meeting served as Castro’s first face-to-face discussions with American elected officials since assuming office in 2008.
The delegation was headed by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. After the meeting, Lee told media, “All of us are convinced that President Castro would like normal relations and would see normalization, ending the embargo, as beneficial to both countries.”
Reuters reported that Lee’s delegation “avoided specifics” with Castro “but were struck by his humor, impressed by his involvement in Third World causes and firm in their belief that he wants to end U.S.-Cuba enmity.”
Politico reported Lee and others heaped praise on Castro, calling him warm and receptive during their discussion.
Politico also reported that the lawmakers disputed Castro's later statement that members of the congressional delegation said American society is still racist.
The meeting reportedly took place in secret without the customary presence of a U.S. State Department official.
The New York Times reported that Cuban state television showed Castro, wearing a business suit instead of his trademark olive-green fatigues, sitting down with Lee and other members of the American delegation. The television report provided no details of what was discussed.
In an article now scrubbed from the Internet but previously captured by WND, the Cuban Communist Party daily Granma stated that the lawmakers attending with Lee and Watt were Reps. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio, Laura Richardson, D-Calif., and Bobby Rush, D-Ill.
“Also participating were Patrice Willougby, executive assistant to the [Congressional] Black Caucus, and Eulada Watt, wife of Congressman Melvin Luther Watt,” according to Granma.
It's not the only potential controversy related to Watt’s appointment to an agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the country’s 12 Federal Home Loan Banks.
The Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday Watt was investigated by of the Office of Congressional Ethics regarding a fundraising incident in 2009 involving major banks, although ultimately no charges were brought against him.
In the case, a fundraiser was held in Watt’s honor just days before the House voted to rewrite legislation regarding federal financial regulation. Financial institutions such as Bank of America, KPMG, Ameriprise Financial and Goldman Sachs were in attendance.
The Free Beacon notes Watt withdrew an amendment from the legislation that focused on whether auto loans ought to be included in the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency two days after the event. Without the amendment, franchised auto dealers would have fallen out of the regulatory agency’s reach.
With research by Brenda J. Elliott