Shortly after the 2016 election, lobbyists representing the Saudi government booked hundreds of rooms in President Donald Trump’s D.C. hotel. They spent more than $270,000 on the overnight stays for veterans who were in the D.C. area to lobby lawmakers against legislation disliked by the Saudi government. Organizers of the program initially rented rooms in Northern Virginia but switched almost completely to the Trump International Hotel in December 2016; they say they did so because of discounted rates and space availability. Federal lawsuits allege that, with the hotel bookings, Trump wrongly accepted money from foreign governments. Some veterans involved said they weren’t aware the Saudi government was behind their free D.C. trips, which one veteran said included open bars and complimentary dinners. [WaPost]

Happy Thursday.

Topping the news: The state of Utah is suing a Salt Lake City accounting firm over embezzled funds, seeking to recover $860,000 plus interest and attorneys' fees. The funds were embezzled by a state employee at a time when the accounting firm was reviewing their finances, and the state claims the company failed to identify fraud risks and lack of internal controls. [Trib]

-> Leaders of groups supportive of Proposition 2 are suing the Utah government and Gov. Gary Herbert over the Utah Medical Cannabis Act, the bill that lawmakers passed earlier this week to replace the ballot initiative. The organizations say that upending a law voters directly approved is unconstitutional and called into question The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ role in making the decision. [Trib][Fox13]

-> The family of North Ogden Mayor Brent Taylor, who died in the line of duty last month, had their home decorated as part of a special Christmas surprise. [KUTV]

Tweets of the Day: From @LoganDobson: “Overheard at a DC cocktail party: ‘I’m just winging it until someone figures out I don’t know what I’m talking about.’”

-> From @jaketapper: “‘Those that travel the high road of humility in Washington are not bothered by heavy traffic.’ -- Sen. Alan Simpson”

-> From @StephenAtHome: “Tonight! I can’t take the suspense of all the redacted memos. Come on Mueller! Can’t we at least buy a vowel? #LSSC

Happy Birthday: to U.S. Rep. Mia Love.

Trib Talk: Tribune reporter Courtney Tanner and state Sen. Dan Thatcher, R-West Valley City, join Benjamin Wood to discuss proposed changes to the state’s hate crime statute. [Trib]

In other news: The state of Utah has until Jan. 3 to respond to the Utah Republican Party’s petition to have its case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court. The party is appealing in an attempt to overturn Utah’s candidate nomination law, which allows candidates to qualify for the ballot through the caucus system or signature collection. Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox has been asked by the Supreme Court to weigh in. [DNews][Fox13]

-> An official from Puerto Rico was in Salt Lake City on Wednesday delivering the message that the island wants to do more business with Utahns. [DNews]

-> Atlantic journalist McKay Coppins discussed Prop 2, the LDS Church’s political influence both locally and nationally and Mitt Romney. Listen here. [Trib]

-> The city of Cottonwood Heights has hired Scott Jurges as the new director of finance and administrative services. [DNews]

-> Eighty-five years ago, Utah voted to end alcohol prohibition. [Fox13]

Nationally: The United States bade a fond farewell to former President George H.W. Bush on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral, remembering him as the patriarch of a political dynasty. [NYTimes][BBC][CNN][Fox][WSJ]

-> President Trump struck a trade truce with Chinese President Xi Jinping last weekend, but global investors are still concerned about the possibility of a looming trade war. Seeking to allay these fears, Trump said China was sending “very strong signals” about the agreement and suggested that U.S. exports to China are about to surge. [NYTimes][Fox][WSJ]

-> The U.S. has begun preparing to sail a warship into the Black Sea as tensions rise between Russia and Ukraine. [CNN]

-> Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke reportedly met with former President Barack Obama last month as the congressman ponders a potential presidential run in the 2020 elections. [WaPost]

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-- Bethany Rodgers and Cara MacDonald