Attorney General William P. Barr had planned to hold a 200-person holiday party at the Trump hotel in Washington Sunday night, but the event was rescheduled, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman declined to say when the event would take place but said it would still be at the Trump International Hotel, a choice that prompted critics to question Barr’s independence from Trump, who still profits from his business while in office.

Barr has been a key defender of President Trump, including Monday when he criticized an inspector general’s report examining the FBI’s investigation into possible coordination between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Twice this week, Justice Department attorneys are defending Trump in court against suits claiming the president illegally benefits from his business while in office.

During his first year as President Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr has at times used the same language as Trump on the Russia probe and impeachment. (The Washington Post)

Barr signed a contract with the Trump hotel over the summer that required a minimum of $31,500 in spending. He put up a $10,000 deposit, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by The Washington Post. The total cost of the party could be much higher depending on the menu Barr chooses to go with a four-hour open bar.

Barr planned to pay for the party himself, avoiding concerns about the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars the president from accepting gifts or payments from governments including the United States.

The Trump hotel wasn’t Barr’s first choice. He chose the venue after signing a contract with the Willard nearby that fell through when that hotel was double-booked, according to a Justice Department official. Representatives from the Trump Organization and the Willard declined to comment, citing privacy policies.

Not publicly disclosing the event’s new date could help Barr and his guests avoid protests. On Sunday night, half a dozen protesters — thinking Barr’s guests would be arriving — held a sign on the sidewalk out front calling for Barr to be disbarred and told guests arriving at the hotel: “You’re on the wrong side of history.”

Hotel management stationed a security official by the protesters. Earlier this year, similar disturbances prompted management to permanently shut down the hotel’s outdoor cafe.

Government ethics experts have raised concerns about the attorney general’s selection of Trump’s hotel, particularly since Barr has been such a steadfast defender of the president, often echoing the president’s criticism of the probe by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and impeachment inquiry.

Barr has been a critical defender of Trump in a growing list of instances, including Barr’s controversial handling of Mueller’s report and his repeated suggestions that the FBI “spied” on the Trump campaign in 2016.

Justice Department attorneys are defending Trump in three lawsuits winding their way through the federal courts accusing Trump of violating the Constitution’s anti-corruption emoluments provisions when his business books deals with state and foreign governments.

In Washington Monday, federal appeals court judges expressed skepticism that members of Congress as individuals have a legal right to sue Trump to stop his private businesses from accepting payments from foreign governments without lawmakers’ consent.

On Thursday, appeals court judges in Richmond will hear arguments in a case that turns on the Trump hotel in Washington. In that case, attorneys general for the District and Maryland claim the site gains an unfair advantage from governments looking to curry favor with the president by booking there.

Trump’s adult sons, who are running the company while he is in office, say they are trying to sell the hotel.