Justice Department ethics officials have decided it's OK for their boss to have a party at a hotel owned by his boss. Attorney General William Barr has booked a holiday party in December at President Trump's hotel in Washington, DC, reports the Washington Post. The party, which Barr is paying for himself, will have an open bar for around 200 guests and is expected to deliver at least $30,000 in revenue for the president's business. An official tells the Post that Barr holds the party every year, and he only chose the Trump International Hotel because his first two choices were fully booked. "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 says. Trump earned more than $40 million from the hotel last year.
Analysts say that while the transaction may not violate the letter of the law, it sends the wrong message—especially since the Justice Department has been defending the president in lawsuits that accuse him of illegally profiting off his presidency through the hotel. "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 ... should make taxpayers deeply uncomfortable," Liz Hempowicz at the nonprofit Project on Government Oversight tells the Post, adding that if Barr "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." The Justice Department confirmed that Barr will not be getting a discount, CBS reports. (Read more William Barr stories.)