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Federal Appeals Court Throws Out Competition Lawsuit against DC Trump Hotel

A general view of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 18, 2019. (Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

A federal appeals court rejected an unfair competition lawsuit against President Trump’s Washington, D.C. luxury hotel on Friday.

The suit, brought in 2017 by the nearby Cork Wine Bar, claimed that local businesses were losing business to the Trump International Hotel because guests who might have shopped elsewhere were seeking to curry favor with the president by spending at the hotel. Cork complained that after the 2016 election, lobbyists, advocacy groups, and diplomats began patronizing the Trump hotel based on a “perception” that doing so “would be to their advantage in dealings with” the administration.

“Cork, like other hospitality businesses, seeks to attract both foreign and domestic customers including government, political, legal and lobbying leaders,” the company stated in a May court filing. “Because the Trump Hotel and its restaurants are owned by President Trump, they have an unfair advantage because the Hotel and others promote the connection between it and the Presidency.”

However, the three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the wine bar had failed to establish its case that the Trump hotel holds an unfair competitive advantage.

“We see no reason to conclude that District common law recognizes anything like Cork’s unfair-competition claim,” read the opinion of the judges, which include former Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland.

The competition lawsuit is similar to others accusing Trump of using his presidential office to profit his businesses.

Democrats have for months been probing whether the Trump administration has funneled spending by foreign governments into Trump’s businesses, such as the president’s suggestion that the 2020 G-7 summit be held at Trump National Doral Miami.

Earlier this month, the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously that the more than 200 Democratic lawmakers who sued over the Trump Hotel’s catering to foreign dignitaries did not have the standing to levy a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits government officials from accepting gifts or payment from foreign dignitaries.

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