Democrats ask Supreme Court to probe Clarence Thomas over undisclosed trips

Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, John Roberts, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh
Members of the Supreme Court sit for a new group portrait following the addition of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Bottom row, from left, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts. Top row, from left, Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Democrats ask Supreme Court to probe Clarence Thomas over undisclosed trips

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A group of 22 House and Senate Democrats are demanding Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts investigate Justice Clarence Thomas for not disclosing that he accepted “luxury trips” and other gifts from a Republican megadonor.

The group of 11 House Democrats and 11 of their Senate colleagues urged the chief justice to take swift action in a letter Friday. The missive referenced Thursday’s revelations that Thomas “accepted luxury trips virtually every year” from Harlan Crow, a Dallas-based real estate developer and GOP donor, without disclosing them for over two decades. The lawmakers expressed concern about “unethical, and potentially unlawful, conduct at the Supreme Court.”

CLARENCE THOMAS RESPONDS TO ACCUSATIONS ABOUT UNDISCLOSED GIFTS AMID OUTCRY

“To date, the Court has barely acknowledged, much less investigated, these allegations. Amidst all of this — perhaps due in part to the Court’s inaction — the American people’s trust in the Supreme Court has plummeted to an all-time low,” the letter reads. “We believe that it is your duty as Chief Justice ‘to safeguard public faith in the judiciary,’ and that fulfilling that duty requires swift, thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations.”

As the lawmakers pointed out, the Court has not commented on the revelations aside from Thomas’s Friday statement.

The associate Supreme Court justice said on Friday in a rare public statement with wife Ginni Thomas, a prominent conservative activist, that he “was advised” that he did not have to disclose the trips, which included a 2019 visit to Indonesia, a cruise to New Zealand nearly a decade ago, and an exclusive all-male retreat known as Bohemian Grove in California.

Crow, meanwhile, denied ever trying to influence the justice’s rulings with the travel perks and other gifts.

With regard to their investigation request, the lawmakers wrote in their letter that they “have reason to believe” Crow was connected to multiple groups that have filed amicus briefs to the Court. As a result, they urged Roberts to look into if anyone “with interests related to Justice Thomas’s official duties” joined the trips.

The letter was led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who chair Judiciary subcommittees in their respective chambers on federal courts. It was also signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tom Carper (D-DE), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) on the Senate side.

Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Deborah Ross (D-NC), Mike Quigley (D-IL), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Cori Bush (D-MO), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Steve Cohen (D-TN) were the signatories from the House.

The lawmakers warned Roberts that they would “continue to press Congress to act to restore accountability and ethics at the highest Court in the land” if he failed to act.

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Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and did not sign the Friday letter, vowed that his panel “will act” in response to the ProPublica report on Thursday. Still, it is not clear what specifically the committee plans to do.

Senate Democrats have been considering using this year’s funding legislation for the Supreme Court to push judges to adopt an ethics code that would require more transparent processes for recusals and for the investigation of ethics-related violation allegations. The No. 2 Senate Democrat has long supported implementing an ethics code for judges.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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