LO­CAL OPIN­IONS

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY NI­CHOLAS W. ALLARD The writer, dean of the Brook­lyn Law School, was chief of staff for sen­a­tor Daniel Pa­trick Moyni­han (D-N.Y.) and worked for sen­a­tor Ted Kennedy (DMass.) on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

Pres­i­dent Trump could set an ex­am­ple by ex­pand­ing his din­ing options in the Dis­trict.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s lawyer dis­mis­sively calls a law­suit filed by the Cork Wine Bar al­leg­ing un­fair com­pe­ti­tion from the restau­rants in the Trump fam­ily’s D.C. ho­tel a “wild pub­lic­ity stunt.” That is high praise con­sid­er­ing the source.

While the mer­its of this case are to be de­ter­mined in court, where the pres­i­dent has not fared so well re­cently, the case it­self raises, at a min­i­mum, a se­ri­ous larger ques­tion about set­ting a good eth­i­cal ex­am­ple: Why does the White House con­sis­tently try to ex­cuse ques­tion­able con­duct and ar­gue that the pres­i­dent and his staff are not sub­ject to the ethics rules against con­flicts of in­ter­est and self-deal­ing that are ap­pli­ca­ble to ev­ery­one else in the gov­ern­ment? In the United States, we re­vere prin­ci­ple; and courts con­sis­tently rule that no one is above the law — not Richard Nixon, not Bill Clin­ton, not Don­ald Trump.

The pres­i­dent and his staff should be try­ing to set the best ex­am­ple of eth­i­cal, vir­tu­ous con­duct. In­stead, the White House re­lies on gray ar­eas, loop­holes, pre­tense and sheer chutz­pah to thumb its nose de­ri­sively at the rule of law again.

It re­ally eats at me to see Trump and his en­tourage din­ing on of­fi­cial busi­ness at restau­rants in places he still owns, such as the Mar-a-Largo re­sort in Flor­ida and his Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue ho­tel here. Th­ese are not the best places to con­duct sen­si­tive af­fairs of state with for­eign dig­ni­taries, but they are ex­cel­lent for pro­mot­ing the brand.

Co­in­ci­dence? I think not. It is tol­er­ated with a wink and a nod when press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer en­cour­ages peo­ple to try out the Trump ho­tel and Kellyanne Conway pro­motes the pres­i­dent’s daugh­ter’s mer­chan­dise. It is not a stretch to imag­ine that all those con­tacts be­tween the Trump team with Rus­sians be­fore and af­ter the elec­tion might have had self-serv­ing fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests at stake; that is a topic to add to the con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion the pres­i­dent re­quested.

What a shame, and it is all un­nec­es­sary.

For starters, the pres­i­dent would be well-ad­vised to ven­ture out­side of Trump Inc. when din­ing out and en­ter­tain­ing. It would be no sac­ri­fice to choose among the wide ar­ray of options right across from the White House, in­clud­ing Ashok Ba­jaj’s amaz­ing Bom­bay Club; the top­drawer culi­nary ex­pe­ri­ences brack­et­ing Trump’s ho­tel that run the length of Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue and nearby streets, such as Oc­ci­den­tal, Del Frisco’s, Cen­tral Michel Richard, Tadich Grill, 701 and Rasika; nearby steak­houses such as the Cap­i­tal Grille and Char­lie Palmer Steak DC; old-school fa­vorites such as the Palm, Mor­ton’s and La Chau­miere; and more quo­tid­ian de­lights such as Ben’s Chili Bowl, Martin’s Tav­ern, Ted’s Bul­letin, Pines of Rome and the Maine Av­enue wa­ter­front cornucopia of seafood. He could even en­joy some bar­be­cue from Boog Pow­ell’s at Na­tion­als Park af­ter throw­ing the first pitch.

Mak­ing the ef­fort to set an eth­i­cal ex­am­ple matters more than a hill of beans. It is a healthy menu for earn­ing the trust and re­spect of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

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