Attorney General William Barr has booked President Donald Trump’s D.C hotel for a 200-person holiday party in December that is supposed to deliver Trump’s business more than $30,000 in revenue.
A contract was signed by him the copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post. The “Family Holiday Party” is scheduled for December 8 in the hotel’s Presidential Ballroom. The main attraction of the party will be a buffet and four-hour open bar for about 200 people.
According to a Department of Justice official, Barr chose the venue after he found Willard, Mayflower along with several other prominent venues booked and he himself is paying for the event. The party is thrown by Barr once in a year 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,” the official added. Barr’s decision to book his boss’s hotel indicates the conflict between Trump’s administration and his business which the president no longer operates but earns from it.
Liz Hempowicz, the director of public policy at the non-profit Project on Government Oversight said, “It creates the appearance that high-level political appointees or allies of the president may feel like they need to spend money at the president’s businesses as a show of loyalty, and that is something that makes me deeply uncomfortable and should make taxpayers deeply uncomfortable.”
The move is important as Justice Department attorneys are defending the president’s business in court. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat 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.”
Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, said: “He keeps sending signals that his loyalty is to a politician and not to the country.”
“And it’s part of an ongoing erosion of credibility at the Department of Justice,” he added. However, it is not clear whether Barr will pay the market rate for the event as the Justice Department official said he would.
Liz Hempowicz stated if Barr receives a discount from the hotel it would give other Americans dealing with the Justice Department reason for concern. “If the attorney general gets a discount while the Justice Department defends the hotel in court, that is not how the justice system is supposed to work and it’s not how the Department of Justice is supposed to work,” she said.