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Restaurant Workers Group Joins Lawsuit Against Donald Trump

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ROC United joins claim; Tom Colicchio voices his support

Trump Meets I-85 Bridge First Responders Photo by Ron Sachs - Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump continues to rack up restaurant world lawsuits. A suit filed against the President and his Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC has gained two new plaintiffs according to the Washington Post: Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC), a restaurant workers lobbying group, and Jill Phaneuf, an independent contractor who books events at hotels for visiting officials and politicians, have joined the suit that claims Trump has taken business away from independent restaurants and hotels by hosting politicians and foreign officials at the Trump Hotel — and is pocketing the cash.

In taking the money of foreign officials who have stayed and dined at his hotel, Trump appears to be in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, in that he is profiting off of government business.

Earlier this year, before Donald Trump dropped two deadly bombs on Syria and Afghanistan, he was sued for violating the Constitution’s emoluments’ clause, as Vox reported.

ROC United wrote in a release that it “is proud” to have joined the suit “against the Trump Administration for its blatant violation of the foreign emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Administration’s conflicts of interest are glaring and dangerous. As a hotel and restaurant owner, the President puts restaurateurs and restaurant workers nationwide at a disadvantage, pushing foreign dignitaries and governments to patronize his establishments over others.”

Though he himself has not joined the suit, Top Chef judge and restaurateur Tom Colicchio expressed his support of ROC’s involvement in the suit. “As a national restaurateur with restaurants in hotels in NY, Florida, and Las Vegas, and as a proud member of RAISE (Restaurants Advancing Industry Standards Everywhere),” he wrote in a statement, “I am proud and supportive that ROC United, RAISE’s parent organization, has joined the lawsuit holding Mr. Trump accountable for emoluments violations.”

“It’s not a free market, or a free country, when foreign governments feel like they have to eat and patronize Trump hotels and restaurants because he’s the president of the United States,” Saru Jayaraman, ROC United co-founder and co-director, told the Washington Post. “I mean, that’s why the emoluments clause was written.”

Trump addressed the emoluments clause violations in January — not by divesting from his businesses, but by issuing a statement saying he would donate money paid to the hotel by foreign entities to the federal government. Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics Walter M. Shaub expressed his disapproval with that plan in a hearing: "The plan does not comport with the tradition of our Presidents over the past 40 years. This isn’t the way the Presidency has worked since Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act in 1978 in the immediate aftermath of the Watergate scandal.” Shaub urged the President to divest.

“We need a President who puts the success and security of the American people ahead of his own financial interests and those of his fellow elites,” Jayaraman wrote in a statement, “What’s more, we need an administration that follows the Constitution.”

Jill Phaneuf, a contractor who books events for two Washington, DC hotels and is paid on commissions, said she “joined this lawsuit because the president is taking business away from me and others with unfair business practices that violate the Constitution.”

Trump was also sued by Cork Wine Bar, a restaurant in D.C., last month for unfair competition and violation of his Trump Hotel lease agreement. That suit, filed by D.C.-based watchdog group the Center for Responsible Ethics in Washington (CREW), called out the President’s habit of conducting official government business at the Trump International Hotel, located a five minute drive east of the White House. It outlined the ways in which the plaintiffs, Cork’s owners Diane Gross and Khalid Pitts, lost business from visiting politicians who have been courted by the president to join him at his hotel.

“We have events we do [at our wine bar] for elected officials, nonprofits, foreign dignitaries, the World Bank, law firms,” Gross told the Washington Post at the time. “Those folks are now being courted to come and want to go there because they see it as advantageous to them to curry favor with the president.”

The emoluments’ suit, filed in January, is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Two plaintiffs join suit against Trump, alleging breach of emoluments clause [WaPo]
D.C. Restaurant Sues Donald Trump, Trump Hotel for Unfair Competition [E]
The new lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of violating the Constitution, explained [Vox]

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