Last month, U.S. Attorney General William Barr booked President Donald Trump’s D.C. hotel for a 200-person holiday party in December that is likely to deliver Trump’s business more than $30,000 in revenue.
Barr signed a contract, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post, for a “Family Holiday Party” in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom Dec. 8. The party will feature a buffet and four-hour open bar for about 200 people.
Barr is paying for the event himself and chose the venue only after other hotels were booked, according to a Department of Justice official. The official said the purpose of Barr’s party wasn’t to curry favor with the president.
Barr holds the bash annually and it combines holiday festivities and a “ceilidh,” a party featuring Irish or Scottish music.
“Career ethics officials were consulted and they determined that ethics rules did not prohibit him from hosting his annual party at the Trump hotel,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Barr’s decision to book his boss’ hotel marks the latest collision between Trump’s administration and his business, which the president no longer operates but from which he still benefits financially.
Trump said Monday that he was likely to hold next year’s Group of 7 international summit at his golf resort in Doral, Fla. Already the federal government and GOP campaigns have spent at least $1.6 million at his properties since he entered office, according to a Post analysis, though the actual figure is likely to be higher because of the difficulty of obtaining up-to-date records.
Barr’s decision to book the Trump hotel is noteworthy in particular because Justice Department attorneys are defending the president’s business in court. Trump’s D.C. hotel has hosted a number of foreign governments as clients, business that has generated two lawsuits, one from the attorneys general of Maryland and D.C. and the other from about 200 Democratic members of Congress.
Both cases are being considered in federal court, and the Justice Department is defending the president’s position that he has not run afoul of the anti-corruption provisions in the Constitution called the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat, a plaintiff in one of the emoluments cases against Trump, said Barr’s plans make him fear “that all this does is it normalizes conduct of presidential supporters or would-be supporters, who clearly know a clear avenue to curry favor with the president and that is to do business with the president’s business.”