Feb 26, 2016 7:25 PM
Emails: Trump comments on Mexico stirred heat in kitchen
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says Latinos love him. But a legal brief citing Trump Organization emails indicates some of Trump's own executives and family members may have concluded otherwise.
The filing in District of Columbia Superior Court asks a judge to throw out Trump's lawsuit against Washington restaurateur Jose Andres. It includes excerpts from Trump Organization emails fretting over the possibility that Trump's harsh comments on Mexican immigrants last June could permanently damage the Trump business brand with Latinos.
The general counsel for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, called the email a "red herring" in what was otherwise a running contract dispute. Trump's recent showing among Latino voters in Republican primaries demonstrates Trump's appeal, he told The Associated Press.
The litigation arose following the furor in June over Trump's declaration that Mexico was using the U.S. as a "dumping ground" for drug dealers and rapists. Following the comments, celebrity chef Jose Andres called off plans to open a Spanish restaurant in Trump's upcoming Washington hotel. Trump sued, alleging breach of contract.
Andres and his partners said Trump's remarks and refusal to apologize made it impossible for a successful launch of the planned restaurant, Topo Atrio. Andres' company, The Food Group, emailed Trump daughter Ivanka Trump on June 25 to say it was "getting crushed" over Trump's comments. Ivanka Trump, whose Trump Organization title is executive vice president of development and acquisitions, forwarded the message to David Orowitz, a senior vice president of business development.
"Ugh," Orowitz wrote in the email. "This is not surprising and would expect that this will not be the last that we hear of it. At least for formal prepared speeches, can someone vet going forward? Hopefully the Latino community does not organize against us more broadly in DC / across Trump properties."
Donald Trump Jr. responded: "Yea, I was waiting for that one," and proposed talking more the following morning.
In its motion for summary judgment against Trump, Andres's company argues that Trump's own associates had acknowledged the obvious damage Trump had done and the impact on the Trump Hotel restaurant. More than 2,700 people signed a petition demanding Andres sever his ties with Trump.
The court filing said the restaurant project itself was likely doomed. Lenders backed away, and recruiting staff became more difficult. Finally, Andres and his associates concluded that they would suffer a 10 percent loss in business because "the restaurant's target clientele included large swaths of Hispanics and Hispanophiles."
The loss of those clients would have put the entire endeavor in the red, they said.
Garten said that The Food Group's apparent concern over Trump's immigration comments was a diversion. Emails obtained through discovery showed Andres was trying to back out of his deal with Trump weeks before Trump alleged widespread criminality among Mexican immigrants, Garten said, following a dispute over the restaurant's architecture.
Garten also disputed that the Trump emails showed that Trump's own employees and family members disapproved of his remarks, and dismissed the email chatter about vetting Trump's future speeches.
"Mr. Trump did not decide to run for president for business reasons," Garten said. "He decided to run for president because the country is broken, and politicians are completely incapable of fixing the issues."
Though the lawsuit remains outstanding, a new restaurant is now slated to occupy the space formerly slated for Andres's restaurant. The replacement is BLT Prime, part of a high-end steakhouse chain.