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Monday, December 18, 2017

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Washington judge has ordered Republican President-elect Donald Trump to give a deposition in a lawsuit against celebrity chef Jose Andres stemming from Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants.

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Jennifer Di Toro ruled on Wednesday that Trump must testify in New York about Andres’ restaurant deal at Trump’s luxury Washington hotel. The deposition can last up to seven hours and will take place in the first week of January.

His lawyers had sought to limit how long Trump could be questioned and what could be covered, contending he was extremely busy ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration.

But Di Toro said in her order that limits on the deposition could harm preparations by Andres’ lawyers, and that Trump’s own statements were at the heart of the case.

Trump is suing Andres for $10 million over breach of contract after Andres backed out of a plan to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel a few blocks from the White House.

Andres, who was born in Spain and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, has said he canceled the project after Trump denounced Mexican immigrants in June 2015 as drug dealers and rapists.

Andres has argued that the comments made it difficult to attract Hispanic staff and customers and to raise money for a Spanish restaurant.

Trump’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Chef Geoffrey Zakarian also pulled out of a restaurant deal at the hotel, citing Trump’s remarks. Trump has sued Zakarian for breach of contract and was deposed in that case in June.

Andres suggested in a tweet on Tuesday that the two sides wrap up the lawsuit and donate money to a veterans’ group instead. “Why keep litigating? Let’s both of us win,” he said.

The hotel has drawn fire from critics who say it poses a potential conflict of interest since Trump is leasing the site, a historic former post office, from the federal government.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Alistair Bell)

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