Trump claims immunity from wine bar suit
Lawyers for Donald Trump say the US president has “absolute immunity” from a lawsuit by owners of the Cork Wine Bar in Washington, who claim that his ownership of a nearby hotel constitutes unfair competition.
Trump’s lawyers, in seeking a dismissal of the lawsuit by Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, said the president cannot be forced to close or divest the Trump International Hotel, or else resign his office.
The doctrine of absolute immunity “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,” Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing. “That doctrine forecloses this lawsuit.”
Alan Morrison, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who is also a George Washington University Law School associate dean and co-founder with Ralph Nader of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, said he is reviewing the filing.
The lawsuit is one of many targeting Trump’s alleged failure to distance himself from his business empire while in office.
Trump has ceded day-to-day control over his businesses to his sons Eric and Donald Jr.
Gross and Pitts, who are married, said their wine bar has lost business because the Trump hotel and restaurants within it enjoy an unfair advantage.
They said that advantage stems from the hotel’s association with the president and an expectation it will attract diplomats, lobbyists and politicians hoping to curry favour with him.
In a separate request to dismiss the lawsuit, the hotel’s operator defended the use of Trump’s name.
“Financial success does not become unlawful simply because it is aided by prominence,” it said.
The Trump International Hotel opened in September, before Trump was elected. It is located roughly 2.5km from the Cork wine bar.