Credit: Darrow Montgomery

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A group of former judges and clergy is challenging the renewal of the Trump International Hotel’s liquor license based on the argument that the hotel’s owner, Donald J. Trump, is not of “good character.”

A lawyer for the hotel objected to the protest, arguing that the general public cannot challenge a liquor license based on the proprietor’s character. “If it were otherwise, every license application, new or renewal, easily could disintegrate into a popularity contest,” Stephen J. O’Brien argues in Trump’s motion to dismiss the challenge license.

O’Brien also asserts that the challenge was brought for “purely political theater,” with the District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) board sitting in judgment of Trump’s character. He also calls into question the integrity of the ABRA board members:

“Based on the District’s vote in the last Presidential election, protestants figure that the Board likely is not comprised of supporters of Mr. Trump and will be susceptible to being sucked into such a vortex,” O’Brien writes in his motion.

O’Brien did not immediately respond to LL’s request for comment.

Yesterday, the ABRA board rejected that reasoning and ruled that the challenge can move forward.

In its decision, the board says the hotel’s argument would lead to “absurd and bizarre results” that would “block objections from otherwise obviously deficient or unlawful applications,” such as for licenses in a moratorium zone or to a felon.

“The ruling is a victory for the rule of law,” says Joshua A. Levy, the attorney for the group challenging Trump’s license. “The Board correctly rejected Trump’s attempt to silence the public and to be held above the law. In the District, no one is above the law.”

This same group of District residents filed a similar objection last summer, which ABRA rejected for procedural reasons. Challenges to a liquor license based on character can only occur before the issuance of a new license, when transferring a license to another owner, or before a license is renewed.

The group of people bringing the challenge include Judge Joan Goldfrank, a retired D.C. Superior Court magistrate judge, Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. a former U.S. District Court judge in D.C., Rev. William Lamar, senior pastor at the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. Jennifer Butler, the founding executive director of Faith in Public Life and former chair of the White House Council on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships, Rev. Dr. Timothy Tee Boddie, a Baptist preacher and general secretary for the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director and president of the Interfaith Alliance in D.C., and Rabbi Aaron Potek, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi. Albert Foer, former president of the American Antitrust Institute, added his name to the list for the renewed challenge.

In their original challenge, the group cited 16 women who have accused Trump of sexual assault, as well as Trump’s statements “equivocating on, if not condoning, the violent, racist conduct of the white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, which culminated in the death of Heather Heyer,” according to ABRA records.

Since then, Trump has been named as a criminal co-conspirator in his lawyer, Michael Cohen‘s, guilty plea, and 700 former federal prosecutors have agreed that based on the Mueller Report, Trump would be facing “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” if not for his position as the sitting president. Just this week, the Washington Post identified 10,796 times Trump made false or misleading claims as of June 7.

The ABRA board also ordered the addresses of the group of petitioners to be released to the hotel’s lawyers, and potential challenges to their qualification under the law to bring the protest could be forthcoming.

If the the two sides forgo mediation, the board will be asked to decide whether Trump’s character makes him worthy of holding a liquor license in D.C.