After a news report highlighted luxurious vacations Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas allegedly accepted from a wealthy friend, Thomas said he was advised he didn’t have to report the trips. In a new statement, Thomas denied any wrongdoing and vowed to follow new reporting requirements imposed on the federal judiciary.
Thomas’s critics in Congress promptly seized on the report last week of the vacations, suggesting it raised the appearance of impropriety.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) demanded that the justice be impeached, saying his actions evidenced an “almost cartoonish” level of corruption. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on federal courts, called for an independent investigation of the justice, who has long been a target of the left.
Whitehouse and other critics also say that justices whose spouses are involved in political activism, like Thomas, whose wife, Ginni Thomas, a supporter of former President Donald Trump, is active in conservative politics, should have to recuse themselves from involvement in cases related to that activism. Despite pressure, the justice declined to recuse himself from the various challenges to the disputed 2020 presidential election that made it to the Supreme Court.
Billionaire businessman and Republican Party donor Harlan Crow, who made the gifts to Thomas, has reportedly not had any business before the Supreme Court, so any allegation of a conflict of interest rests on weak grounds.
Nor is it clear if Thomas violated the judicial ethics code by not declaring the vacations. Legal experts say the code does not apply to the Supreme Court. The court has said in the past that the justices voluntarily adhere to the ethics guidelines.
Crow reportedly said the trips with Thomas and his wife were “no different from the hospitality that we have extended to many other dear friends.”
“Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality,” he said.
Details of the vacations appeared in an April 6 article published by ProPublica, a left-wing nonprofit funded by the preeminent Democratic Party donor, financier George Soros, through his Foundation to Promote Open Society. Soros has been criticized by conservatives for funding the election campaigns of various district attorneys who are soft on crime.