President Trump’s fate as a booze, beer and wine entrepreneur — resulting from his ownership of the Trump International Hotel in the District — rests in the hands of seven D.C. citizens, all of whom have been appointed by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to be members of the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Local municipal boards and commissions have varying degrees of importance. The ABC Board is an independent agency of consequence.
Nothing less than the public’s health, safety and welfare depends upon diligent control and regulation of the sale of alcoholic beverages in our nation’s capital. D.C. law explicitly limits the privilege of owning a business that sells liquor and other alcoholic beverages only to individuals of “good character.”
If an owner is found to be not of good character, the liquor license is in violation of the law and the ABC Board may suspend or revoke the license.
Seven reputable local citizens, two retired judges — one federal, one Superior Court — and five religious leaders have filed a complaint with the board, charging that Trump is unfit to hold a liquor license in the city. The leaders are asking the board to require the Trump International Hotel, which the president’s company operates in the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue NW under a 60-year lease with the federal government, to show cause why his liquor license should not be revoked.
When I first wrote about the complaint against Trump on July 6, a few readers dismissed the issue as trivial, a nuisance — a case of a mosquito biting an elephant’s hide.
I disagree. This case matters, if the rule of law is to have any meaning.
The 27-page complaint, filed by attorney Joshua A. Levy on behalf of the judges and clerics, focuses on “lies [Trump] has told, his involvement in relevant fraudulent and other activity demonstrating his lack of integrity, and his refusal to abide by the law.” The purported evidence cited in the complaint contains information certain to be material to the ABC Board’s decision.
This is a case that the ABC Board cannot duck.
Yes, Trump is president of the United States. But, as the complaint rightly observes, “he is subject to the good character requirement that applies to all other licensees. There is no statutory exception for the rich or the powerful.”
The ABC Board members owe it to District residents — and to the law — to examine and weigh the evidence of the Trump International Hotel owner’s lack of character.
To be sure, it’s a weighty challenge fraught with peril. A D.C. government agency officially and publicly calling into question Trump’s character, integrity and honesty? Will Trump stand for that?
It’s gut check time in the city.
The spotlight is now on members of the ABC Board. Just so you know, gentle reader, all seven members reside east of Rock Creek Park.
Chairman Donovan W. Anderson (Ward 7), an attorney in sole practice, former D.C. public school official and longtime advocate for families of children with special education needs.
Nicholas S. Alberti (Ward 6), retired U.S. Census mathematical statistician and Capitol Hill community activist with more than 25 years of service to D.C. civic organizations.
The Rev. Donald L. Isaac Sr. (Ward 7), ordained minister, former executive director for the Mayor’s Office of Religious Affairs, former chief financial officer for the D.C. Council, with years of experience with community programs east of the Anacostia River.
Rema Wahabzadah (Ward 6), lawyer, business consultant and legislative counsel to the Statehood Initiatives Agency, a city program that implements the New Columbia Statehood Fund.
Bobby Cato Jr. (Ward 5), marketing and management specialist and former manager of the Council of Urban Boards of Education at the National School Boards Association.
James Short Jr. (Ward 7), retired deputy fire chief with the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Service, including more than 12 years with the Fire Marshal’s Office.
Mike Silverstein (Ward 2), retired news writer and editor from ABC News and former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner.
These citizens must meet their statutory obligation to decide whether Trump International Hotel is in violation of the law governing liquor licenses. The complainants have asked the ABC Board to hold a show cause hearing to allow Trump International Hotel a chance to offer evidence in defense of the character and fitness of its owner — Donald Trump, the president of the United States.
The public interest deserves no less.
Read more from Colbert King’s archive.