In Restaurant Feud, Trump Demands Fuel Backlash

WASHINGTON (CN) – Ahead of his court battle with a celebrity chef, President-elect Donald Trump has demanded a two-hour cap and other restrictions for his upcoming deposition.

Trump initiated the lawsuit against Topo Atrio and ThinkFoodGroup last year after celebrity chef Jose Andres pulled out of a deal to open a restaurant in Trump’s new hotel.

At the time, Trump had only just entered the race to the White House, and set the tone for his campaign by noting his belief that not all Mexicans are rapists who bring drugs and crime into the United States.

Andres, who was born in Spain, said the remarks made it “impossible” for him to follow through with the 10-year lease at the Republican’s latest property acquisition, the historic Old Post Office in Washington, D.C.

As the case builds toward a trial in D.C. Superior Court, ThinkFoodGroup and Topo Atrio brought a motion to compel on Dec. 7 regarding an email they received from the Trump team.

Trump is scheduled for a deposition in January, but his attorneys asked that the interview be cut short and moved to New York City for “security reasons.”

The restaurateurs have also balked at attempts to ensure that Trump not face questions similar to those asked in his dispute with another celebrity chef, Food Network star Geoffrey Zakarian. That case was filed in the same court and also concerns restaurant space at the Old Post Office, which opened in the fall as Trump Hotel International.

“It seems dubious that the president-elect cannot be afforded adequate security in the capital of the United States, but defendants are willing to accommodate that demand,” the motion says. “Defendants cannot, however, accept Trump LLC’s attempt to hamstring defendants’ questioning of the man who directed the bringing of this lawsuit.”

In addition to claiming that it would give Trump too much control in the dispute to dictate what questions he will face, attorneys for the restaurant say limiting the time they have with Trump would prevent them from adequately investigating their case.

“A two-hour limitation does not guarantee defendants the ability to conclude the questioning that is necessary to the development of their case and defense,” the motion reads. “Defendants will endeavor to keep the deposition under the seven hours permitted by the rules, but limiting the deposition to two hours is unreasonable and would amount to an abuse of discretion.”

Attorneys for Trump also canceled the deposition of Donald Trump Jr. in the same email, but the parties have agreed to reschedule that meeting, according to the motion.

Trump’s deposition in the Zakarian case caused such a media frenzy that clerks at the Superior Court have taped signs to the wall of the court telling anyone interested in obtaining the lengthy depositions to speak with court staff.

Seyfarth Shaw attorney Rebecca Woods, who represents Trump’s company in the case, declined to comment on the motion.