This Wine Bar Could Force Trump To Release His Tax Returns

A Washington, D.C., wine bar is taking on Trump's business empire.
Posted at 6:00 PM, Aug 16, 2017

A D.C. wine bar is taking on President Trump's business empire.

"We believe very strongly that he is using his office to unfairly and unlawfully promote his hotel and his restaurants in those hotels, and that's taking away business not only from my business, but also from other businesses here in Washington, D.C.," Khalid Pitts said. 

Pitts and his wife, Diane Gross, have owned Cork Wine Bar for 10 years. Since then, dozens of new businesses have popped up in the neighborhood. But he says he can't compete with the president and has filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court for unfair competition.

About a mile away in the historic old post office building is Trump International Hotel. Trump's company, which he still owns, leases this building from the federal government. The hotel opened its doors during the 2016 presidential campaign. The president's staff and foreign dignitaries stay and dine on the property.

"Having the Republican Party have events at the president's own properties thereby creating an increased financial personal profit for him, that's unfair competition for him. How do you compete with the president of the United States?" Mark Zaid said, an attorney representing Cork Wine Bar in the case. 

The extent of the president's conflicts of interest are unknown because he hasn't released his tax returns. Zaid says it's possible the lawsuit could force Trump to reveal his tax returns.

"Certainly more likely would be the receipts of the restaurant and hotel, the hotel bar. Who's going to the hotel restaurant? Are there foreign nationals? Foreign dignitaries? Government officials? Lobbyists, lawyers, members of Congress? For us to be able to show that there's unfair competition from before our client, Cork Wine Bar, used to host events by members of Congress and their staff, and now that number has dropped off. Why? Because, in part, they're going over to the Trump restaurant," Zaid said. 

The law firm representing Trump in this case told us it doesn't comment on client matters, but Trump has insisted that a United States president can't legally have a conflict of interest. 

Cork's owners say they're not asking for any money.

"He can either sell his business, close his hotel and the restaurants there while he's president, or decide not to be president," Pitts said.