President-elect Donald Trump answered questions under oath in New York on Thursday in connection with the multimillion-dollar lawsuit he filed against a celebrity chef who pulled out of an agreement to open a restaurant in Trump’s Washington hotel.
Trump and his attorney, as well as attorneys for the chef José Andrés, met for a little more than an hour in Trump Tower, according to one of those present.
“In short, the parties entered into a valid and enforceable lease, which the tenant clearly breached by walking out and failing to perform its obligations, thereby entitling the landlord to recover damages in the form of unpaid rent, cost of build out, lost profits and other expenses,” Alan Garten, Trump’s general counsel, said in a statement.
The breach-of-contract lawsuit was filed in D.C. Superior Court. In a court filing last month, Trump’s attorneys said the president-elect was too busy to venture to Washington for the deposition as he prepared for the Jan. 20 inauguration. The attorneys agreed to meet with Trump in New York.
The Trump-Andrés legal battle began in July when the chef backed out of a deal to open a restaurant in Trump’s luxury hotel complex in the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue. Andrés cited Trump’s derogatory comments about illegal immigrants from Mexico, saying those remarks made it impossible for him to run a successful dining establishment in the Trump property.
Trump’s hotel opened in September. In court documents, Trump’s attorneys argued that Trump had two months to find an alternative restaurant to open in the space vacated by Andrés. Trump secured BLT Prime by David Burke as a replacement.
Under his contract with Andrés, Trump would have obtained a percentage of revenue from Andrés’s operation once it reached a monthly benchmark.
Trump has filed a similar lawsuit against celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, who also bowed out of Trump’s hotel deal, he said, because of Trump’s comments regarding illegal immigrants. Trump’s attorney argued that the hotel was not able to find a restaurant to replace Zakarian’s and instead was forced to turn the space into a ballroom and meeting space. On Tuesday, attorneys for Zakarian and Trump said they were at an “impasse” in settlement talks. A judge set a pretrial conference hearing for May 17.
Trump originally filed $10 million lawsuits against both chefs. But in the Zakarian lawsuit, economists estimated that Trump’s losses were closer to $14 million. Trump was deposed in the Zakarian lawsuit last summer.
In a recent tweet, Andrés suggested ending the legal dispute and instead donating money to a veteran’s organization.
“Mr. @realDonaldTrump can we end our lawsuits and we donate $ to a Veterans NGO to celebrate? Why keep litigating? Let’s both of us win,” Andrés tweeted.
Drew Harwell contributed to this report.