But several legal experts have questioned whether CREW’s invocation of Havens to establish standing will hold up in court, pointing out that CREW’s injury may not be sufficiently “particularized” and that the precedent from Havens doesn’t really apply. Hessick notes that, while the housing discrimination HOME faced materially prevented the organization from doing its job—“They were an organization that helped people get housing, and the discrimination made it so that HOME was having a much harder time getting people into housing”—CREW cannot claim the same. “They’re just a general watchdog organization; they’re not out there trying to repair the wrongs of Emoluments Clause violations,” Hessick argues. Derek Muller, a law professor at Pepperdine University, agrees, noting that, in Havens, the defendants had broken a specific fair-housing law, and one plaintiff was given false information, which the court ruled gave him standing. “The injury in that case much stronger than CREW’s,” says Muller, who called CREW’s case “borderline frivolous in terms of establishing the sort of injury that courts talk about.” Mark Joseph Stern, who covers legal issues for Slate, describes the case as “an audacious gamble”: CREW is using a legally dubious claim to standing in an attempt to force impeachment of the president over an essentially untested part of the Constitution.
Though CREW may not be able to establish standing, other groups are taking to court to challenge Trump, albeit on more limited grounds. Cork Wine Bar, a restaurant about a mile and a half north of the White House, has filed a lawsuit against the president taking aim at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., although for a different reason: The hotel engaged in unfair competition, Cork alleges, by using its connection to the president to promote the property’s restaurants and catering services. Cork, the restaurant and bar claims, is losing business because of the Trump International’s association with the president. “We have events we do here for elected officials, nonprofits, foreign dignitaries, the World Bank, law firms,” Diane Gross, who co-owns Cork with her husband Khalid Pitts, told The Washington Post, adding that “Those folks are now being courted to come and want to go [to the Trump International] because they see it as advantageous to them to curry favor with the president.” As evidence, Cork cites that it has seen “significantly less income” after this year’s inauguration than it has in previous years.
Unsurprisingly, a lawyer for the Trump Organization quickly contested Cork’s lawsuit, calling it “a wild publicity stunt completely lacking in legal merit.” Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, the owners of the wine bar, maintain that they “didn’t enter into doing this lightly” and are doing so solely for the good of their business—although it’s hard to argue that the suit has brought the establishment into the spotlight, and the Associated Press notes that both Pitts, who ran for a seat on the D.C. City Council in 2014, and Gross, who once worked in the office of Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, have histories in politics.