- REUTERS/Leah Millis
- Attorney General William Barr booked President Donald Trump‘s hotel in Washington, DC, for a $30,000 holiday party with approximately 200 guests, the Washington Post reported.
- A Justice Department official told the Post that Barr is paying for the party himself instead of using federal funds, and that career ethics officials determined the party doesn’t violate ethics rules.
- Still, the event is a reminder of just how much Trump stands to profit from the presidency, and it also raises questions about Barr’s independence from Trump.
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A Justice Department official told the Post that Barr is not using federal funds to pay for the event and is financing it himself. The official added that Barr only chose the Trump International Hotel in DC after other hotels like the Willard and the Mayflower were already booked.
Barr reportedly consulted career ethics officials on the move, and the official said they determined that Barr’s actions don’t violate any ethics rules.
And since Barr isn’t a foreign diplomat and is paying for the party himself, legal experts say it’s unlikely the move violates the foreign or domestic emoluments clause.
Still, the event is a reminder of just how much Trump stands to profit from the presidency, and it also raises questions about Barr’s independence from Trump.
The president invited backlash this week when he said he’s seriously considering hosting the next G7 summit at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Resort.
Unlike past presidents who put their assets in a blind trust, Trump has maintained ownership of his business empire – which is currently run by his two eldest sons – and critics have accused him of violating the Constitution by mixing business with his official duties.
The foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution bars public officials from receiving gifts or cash from foreign or state governments without congressional approval. Trump’s DC hotel has been at the center of several lawsuits alleging Trump has violated the Constitution along these lines and has major conflicts of interest.
As Insider previously reported:
- Trump made at least $434 million in 2018, according to his annual financial disclosure, including $40.8 million from the Trump International Hotel, which is located less than a mile from the White House.
- A lobbying firm with ties to the Saudi government paid $270,000 to Trump’s DC hotel between October 2016 and March 2017.
- Trump’s financial disclosure for 2018 also revealed he earned roughly $22.7 million from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, a property where he’s hosted foreign leaders and which has come under scrutiny on a variety of issues.
And according to a recent analysis from the Post, Trump’s routine visits to his properties as president have brought his private businesses at least $1.6 million in revenue.
Barr is hounded by questions about his independence from Trump
Barr, meanwhile, has faced controversies of his own surrounding his coziness with the president.
The attorney general invited sharp scrutiny for his handling of the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Despite his assurances to lawmakers and the public that he would treat Mueller’s investigation fairly and without bias, Barr was widely criticized for distorting the special counsel’s findings in the probe.
Mueller determined that there was not sufficient evidence to charge Trump or anyone on his campaign with conspiring with the Russian government. And although he specified that he did not investigate “collusion” because it is not a legal term, Barr repeatedly parroted Trump allies by saying Mueller found “no collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Barr was accused of muddying the waters even more with the way he presented Mueller’s conclusions in his obstruction-of-justice case against Trump. Mueller’s team determined that it could not make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on obstruction because of a 1973 Office of Legal Counsel memo that said a sitting president cannot be indicted.
But Barr sought to downplay the role of the memo in the decision, instead falsely suggesting that prosecutors declined to come to a conclusion because of a lack of evidence.