Donald Trump claims 'absolute immunity' over Washington DC wine bar lawsuit

Owners said Trump International Hotel had unfair advantage due to ongoing and continued association with US President

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Thursday 11 May 2017 13:15 BST
Cork Wine Bar is located 1.5 miles south of Trump International Hotel, which opened in September 2016
Cork Wine Bar is located 1.5 miles south of Trump International Hotel, which opened in September 2016 (REUTERS)

Donald Trump has claimed “absolute immunity” after a Washington DC wine bar filed a lawsuit against him.

Cork Wine Bar sued the President after its owners claimed the opening of the Trump International Hotel in September 2016 created unfair competition, damaging their business.

The former property tycoon ceded control of his businesses, including his hotel empire, to his sons after his inauguration.

However, bar owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts said the hotel and its restaurants had an unfair advantage due to their ongoing and continued association with the President, and the expectation it will attract diplomats, lobbyists and politicians hoping to curry favour with him.

Mr Trump’s lawyers said the President could not be forced to close the hotel and sought a full dismissal of the lawsuit on the grounds of “absolute immunity.”

The doctrine "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," lawyers said in a court filing. "That doctrine forecloses this lawsuit."

However the claimants argue the lawsuit is against Donald J Trump as an individual, and not the 45th US President.

“The cloak of immunity does not attach to his private, personal financial dealings," the claimants’ lawyer said.

The lawsuit is one of many targeting Mr Trump's alleged failure to distance himself from his business empire while in office.

Barack Obama’s former chief ethics counsel Norm Eisen said he would sue Mr Trump for allegedly violating the so-called “domestic emoluments clause”, which prohibits the President from receiving additional compensation besides his salary.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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