Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from Justice Clarence Thomas.
- Democratic senators called for Justice Clarence Thomas’ resignation on Thursday in response to a ProPublica report on his vacations with his friend and billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow, who is also a GOP donor.
- Some Democratic senators also used it as an opportunity to renew calls for policies aimed at reforming the Supreme Court, such as enforcing a code of ethics and expanding the court.
- Crow said in a statement that the hospitality extended to Justice Thomas and his wife, who have been his friends since 1996, was “no different” from that extended to other dear friends and was “never asked for” by the couple.
- “Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,” Thomas said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Democratic senators used a Thursday report on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ vacations to call for his resignation and renew calls for court reform policies.
For nearly 20 years, Thomas has accepted frequent invitations from his friend and billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow, who is also a GOP donor, to join him on vacations and trips on his private yacht, which the justice did not disclose, ProPublica reported Thursday. Democratic members of Congress took to Twitter to decry the story, calling for Thomas’ resignation and renewing calls for Supreme Court reform.
Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for Thomas’ impeachment.
“This is beyond party or partisanship. This degree of corruption is shocking – almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached,” she said. “Barring some dramatic change, this is what the Roberts court will be known for: rank corruption, erosion of democracy, and the stripping of human rights.”
ProPublica notes that Thomas and Crow were “genuine friends,” citing individuals who know them both. Additionally, it states that Crow’s firm never had a case before the Supreme Court.
Justices are not required to disclose when they are hosted at someone’s private property or receive free food, ProPublica reported, but are required to disclose gifts of transportation.
“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,” Thomas said in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them.”
Thomas said he “sought guidance” from colleagues early in his tenure and “was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.”
“I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,” Thomas continued. “These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future.”
The allegations are the latest in a series of attacks against Thomas, the first black conservative justice, which began with Anita Hill’s “unfounded” allegations of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearing in 1991 and continues with regular attacks against his wife’s political activism.
“[This] is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you,” Thomas said during his confirmation hearing. “You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. — U.S. Senate, rather than hung from a tree.”
Democratic Reps. Hank Johnson from Georgia, Gerry Connolly from Virginia, Veronica Escobar from Texas, and others called for his resignation. (RELATED: Top Senate Democrat Suggests Leveraging Funding To Drive Supreme Court Ethics Reform)
Some Democratic senators also used it as an opportunity to renew calls for policies aimed at reforming the Supreme Court.
BREAKING: @SenatorDurbin’s statement on reports of undisclosed gifts accepted by Justice Clarence Thomas.
Durbin renews call for an enforceable code of conduct for Justices. pic.twitter.com/vCWn6A4mXE
— Senate Judiciary Committee (@JudiciaryDems) April 6, 2023
Democratic Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith said the Court should be expanded.
“Clarence Thomas has proven what we’ve suspected all along — the Supreme Court is beholden to right-wing corporate interest groups and billionaire mega-donors,” she said. “The Court is broken. The constitutional remedy is clear — expand the Court.”
Democratic Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said justices must be “held to an enforceable code of conduct.”
“The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standard,” he wrote.
Likewise, Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Whitehouse, who has sponsored legislation for a code of ethics, called for an independent investigation.
“Who were Thomas’s companions on these free undisclosed vacations, and what interests did those undisclosed companions have before the Court? The question is obvious,” he said. “All of this needs robust investigation, and it’s the Chief Justice’s job to make sure that occurs.”
Crow said in a statement that he and his wife have been friends with Thomas and his wife since 1996, stating that the hospitality extended to them is “no different” from that extended to other dear friends and was “never asked for” by the couple.
The ProPublica report notes that Thomas has vacationed at Crow’s private resort, Camp Topridge, nearly every summer for two decades, citing interviews with other guests and documents it obtained. During a 2017 trip, other guests included Verizon and PricewaterhouseCoopers executives, Republican donors and an American Enterprise Institute leader, according to ProPublica.
“We have never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one, and we have never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue,” Crow said. “More generally, I am unaware of any of our friends ever lobbying or seeking to influence Justice Thomas on any case, and I would never invite anyone who I believe had any intention of doing that.”
Justice Thomas could not immediately be reached for comment.
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