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Trump says presidential campaign has boosted his businesses

Donald Trump believes that running for president has been good for his bottom line.

He said so under oath during a deposition he gave in a lawsuit stemming from a dispute over his soon-to-open Washington luxury hotel.

“I think people like politics. And they like to be around the name and maybe me,” Trump said in the deposition obtained by The Washington Post on Friday. “I think people really dig it.”

During the more-than-two-hour session in June, Trump noted that a manager at one of his properties in Palm Beach said the presidential run has helped contribute to “the best year we’ve ever had.”

“Well, maybe the success of the campaign. You know people have said there’s never been anything like this,” Trump said.

The deposition, which was filed in D.C. Superior Court late Friday, was taken as part of a $10 million breach-of-contract lawsuit that Trump filed against famed chef Geoffrey Zakarian. The chef had agreed to open a restaurant in Trump’s hotel but pulled out after Trump launched his campaign by denouncing Mexican immigrants as drug dealers and rapists.

Donald Trump deposition in D.C. restaurant lawsuit

Trump met with Zakarian’s attorneys at the law offices of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in the 1200 block of 17th Street NW.

During the deposition, Trump often sounded more like he was giving a speech on the campaign trail than defending a business contract.

Trump stood by his statements about Mexican immigrants and called the issue a “very big topic” in the nation. “Which is a topic that, you know, has led to my nomination in a major party in the country. So it’s not a very out-there topic,” he said.

Trump said his June 2015 comments about immigrants that led Zakarian to pull out were not part of a prepared speech, but he said he had planned what he would say.

In the deposition, Trump blamed the media, including The Washington Post, for misinterpreting his comments.

“I think the media is very dishonest. But all I’m doing is bringing up a situation which is very real, about illegal immigration,” he said. “And I think, you know, most people think I’m right.”

Trump said he had made similar statements about immigration before he announced his run for office and before entering an agreement with Zakarian. “My views were out there very, very strongly,” he said.

At times during the questioning, the billionaire businessman seemed to brag about the impact his campaign has had on his brand.

“You know people have said there’s never been anything like this,” he said. “I’ve tapped into something. And I’ve tapped into illegal immigration. I’ve tapped into other things, also. But, you know, when you get more votes than anybody in the history of the party, history of the party by far, more than Ronald Reagan, more than Richard Nixon, more than Dwight D. Eisenhower who won the Second World War, you know, that’s pretty mainstream, when you think about it,” he said.

Trump spoke about how observers have credited him with running a campaign that has been unprecedented in U.S. politics and how he was able to beat seasoned politicians for the nomination.

“O’Reilly said the other night something to the effect that this is one of the great phenomenons that he’s ever seen in his lifetime,” he said, referring to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. “I mean it’s pretty amazing. You have 17 people and I end up at the top of you know, one of the two parties.

“It’s been a lot of wins. We’ve beaten a lot of people and I think people like that. I think it will be great” for his new hotel, he said.

Trump also said he believed his candidacy could have been a financial boon for Zakarian.

“I think my running for office potentially would have helped him as opposed to hurt him,” Trump said.

For his part, Trump said, Zakarian’s decision to back out left him without enough time to find another restaurant for the space. He said the business would have to spend millions to build out the space.

“We were really let down,” Trump said. “He had his lease, he was all set. He was going to spend all this money on building this place. All of the sudden he says he’s going to violate his lease.”

The hotel is set to open next month as part of the $200 million makeover of the Old Post Office Pavilion in Northwest Washington on Pennsylvania Avenue.

At other points in the deposition, Trump seemed to play down his campaign’s impact on his business and said he doesn’t think it matters “one way or the other.” He added that he had not spoken to his executives about the effect the campaign has had on his companies.

Trump admitted his comments have also hurt him with some business deals. His relationship with Macy’s has been terminated, he said, as well as his relationship with the mattress manufacturer Serta.

But he said he was still in demand. Trump said NBC wanted to renew his TV show “The Apprentice” but it was his decision, not the network’s, to discontinue the show. Trump said he was unable to do the show while on the campaign. “They wanted to renew me very badly on ‘The Apprentice,’ ” he said.

Trump compared his brand to other well-known global companies, such as Coca Cola and Pepsi. “Most of their company is the value of their brand,” he said.

Trump said he leaves much of the day-to-day operations of his various businesses to his daughter Ivanka and his son Donald Jr. It was his son, Trump said, who suggested Zakarian as a restaurateur for the hotel. Trump said he had never heard of Zakarian or had ever been to any of Zakarian’s restaurants.

Separately, Trump also filed a lawsuit against renowned chef José Andrés, who also terminated his restaurant plans following Trump’s statements.

Attorneys for Zakarian declined to comment. Trump’s lawyers did not immediately return a phone call or email.