May 12, 2017

DC wine bar suing Trump

DCist - Donald Trump's "absolute presidential immunity" protects him from a lawsuit filed by D.C. restauranteurs, his lawyers argue in a motion to dismiss the case.

Cork Wine Bar is suing Trump and the business that runs his D.C. hotel, Old Post Office LLC, for unfair competition under D.C. law.

Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, the married couple that owns Cork Wine Bar, and their lawyers argue that that Trump International Hotel and its restaurants have an unfair advantage over other D.C. establishments because they offer—and promote—access to the president and his administration. For business advocates, lobbyists, foreign dignitaries, and more, the suit argues, it's a no-brainer to book or visit the place bearing the president's name if they're looking to ingratiate themselves with the executive branch.

While the president's son, Donald J. Trump Jr., has taken the reigns at Old Post Office LLC, the president has not renounced his ownership stake and continues to be enriched by the hotel and the rest of his businesses.

Pitts and Gross say that they've noticed a downturn in bookings at Cork. They don't want money, but they're seeking a court injunction for Trump to sell, close, or fully divest from the hotel, or resign from office.

In the new motion from Trump's lawyers at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, the lawyers call those outcomes an "unprecedented assertion of power over the president."

The immunity they cite in the Constitution's Supremacy Clause is important because it "ensures that the president can focus on carrying out the obligations of his office without the distraction of virtually limitless litigation whose costs he would personally bear," the motion says.

But Scott Rome, a lawyer for Pitts and Gross, says that they're suing Trump in his capacity as a businessman, not president (though it was still surprisingly simple to serve him). "If he was just performing his duties as president, you could understand," Rome says. "Other presidents haven't continued to own, operate, and benefit from businesses. His sons have said they continue to brief him on these businesses and he goes to them all the time."

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