20 February 2019
Cork's owners say Donald Trump's ownership of a nearby hotel constitutes an unfair advantage. Photo: Reuters
Cork's owners say Donald Trump's ownership of a nearby hotel constitutes an unfair advantage. Photo: Reuters

Trump claims absolute immunity from wine bar lawsuit

Lawyers for Donald Trump on Wednesday said the U.S. president has “absolute immunity” from a lawsuit by owners of the Cork Wine Bar in Washington, D.C., who claim that his ownership of a nearby hotel constitutes unfair competition, Reuters reports.

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, located in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue, 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.”

Mark Zaid, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, disagreed.

“This lawsuit is against Donald J. Trump, not President Trump, and the cloak of immunity does not attach to his private, personal financial dealings,” Zaid said in an email.

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 its restaurants have an unfair advantage. They said the advantage stems from the hotel’s association with the president and an expectation it will attract diplomats, lobbyists and politicians hoping to curry favor with him.

In a separate request to dismiss the lawsuit, the hotel’s operator defended its use of Trump’s name.

“Financial success does not become unlawful simply because it is aided by prominence,” the hotel operator said.

The Trump International Hotel opened in September, before Trump was elected. It is located roughly a mile southeast of the White House and 1.5 miles south of the wine bar, which is near Logan Circle.

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