Trump is too deceitful to be trusted with a hotel liquor license, according to this complaint

DC residents say the commander-in-chief shouldn’t hold a local liquor license.
DC residents say the commander-in-chief shouldn’t hold a local liquor license.
Image: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
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You have be a person of “good character” to sell booze in Washington, DC—and Donald Trump’s not up to snuff, according to a group of seven religious leaders and former judges. They are on a mission to revoke the liquor license of the DC Trump International Hotel because they believe the owner’s record of lying and deceit—both in office and before he was elected as US president—disqualifies him to sell spirits.

The group argues that Trump violates the license’s good character requirements, according to a June 20 complaint to DC’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. They write:

Good character is a threshold requirement for the granting of licenses in the District of Columbia for a variety of professions and business activities, including for a liquor license. Through his behavior both before and during his presidency, Donald J. Trump has demonstrated that he lacks good character. Good character involves an evaluation of an individual’s moral and ethical qualities, including such virtues as honesty, integrity, and how a person treats others, particularly those less fortunate and less powerful.

The complainants say that Trump’s history of deceit is too long to list, and so they point to a few egregious examples. Among the things they take issue with:

The question of Trump’s net worth

Jonathan Greenberg discusses those statements in the Washington Post on April 20. Greenberg says that when he was working on Forbes’ rankings of the 400 richest people in the 1980s, Trump inflated his holdings and reported them through a made-up person. The complaint notes too that Trump has “habitually” used fictitious characters to speak to the media and promote himself.

Trump’s conflicts of interest

Trump’s character is also stained by conflicts of interest, according to the complaint. Although the president said after his election that he would divest from the 19 other US businesses for which he has liquor licenses, he has failed to do so. Instead, he has merely transferred his business interests to his sons through a revocable trust, which must pay the president at his request.

Trump’s lawsuits

The complaint also notes that the District of Columbia and state of Maryland have both sued Trump for violating both the Foreign Emoluments and the Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the US Constitution by accepting financial benefits from foreign governments and federal and state governments via commercial transactions with the Trump International Hotel. Trump claims he’s immune to such suits, but the complainants say the allegations are still relevant to a character assessment.

Stormy Daniels

Also notable, they argue, are Trump’s contradictory statements about a $130,000 payment by the president’s lawyer Michael Cohen to Stephanie Clifford, better known as porn star Stormy Daniels. The complaint says that Trump has “clearly not been honest” about the payments, which makes him a person of poor character. 

Trump’s treatment toward those less powerful

Then there’s the issue that Trump “consistently takes advantage of those who are less powerful, a trait of those who lack good character,” according to the complaint. They argue that Trump University’s effort to defraud 5,000 students using a “bait and switch scheme,” his failure to pay business contractors documented in numerous lawsuits and news articles, and 16 allegations of sexual assault by women all offer evidence that the president doesn’t have what it takes to legally sell alcohol in DC.

The complainants point, too, to Trump’s racist remarks before and after he became president. They argue that he’s dividing the country along racial lines and dehumanizing immigrants and people of certain nations. 

Trump International Hotel’s DC liquor license should be revoked because it’s in the public interest based to do so, the complaint concludes. “Although the true and actual owner is the President of the United States, he is subject to the same good character requirement that applies to all other licensees. There is no statutory exception for the rich or the powerful,” it states. 

The accusers

The assessment comes from a formidable group. It includes retired DC Superior Court magistrate judge Joan Goldfrank, whose career focused on lawyer ethics and fitness for practice; inactive senior DC District Court judge Henry Kennedy, a former prosecutor; Reverend William Lamar IV, senior pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in DC; Reverend Jennifer Butler, founding executive director of the nonprofit Faith in Public Life and a former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships; Reverend Timothy Tee Boddie chief administrator of DC’s  Progressive National Baptist Convention; Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director and president of the nonprofit DC Interfaith Alliance; and Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Aaron Potek.

Trump spokespeople haven’t responded to requests for comment on the complaint. The board’s ruling is expected by the end of July.