Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a rare statement Friday to defend travel he took with his friends over many years, following reports that he failed to report travel-related gifts from a GOP mega-donor.
A ProPublica investigation published this week found that Thomas’ close friendship with real estate developer Harlan Crow allowed him to accompany the Texas billionaire on luxury vacations on his private jet and yacht, as well as free stays on Crow’s vast vacation property, among other perks.
But Thomas defended the trips and explained that he has always followed Supreme Court guidance.
“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,” the justice, who has served on the bench for 32 years, said in a Friday statement.
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Associate Justice Clarence Thomas has come under fire over reports he failed to disclose gifts from a major GOP donor. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
“As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” Thomas said.
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“I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,” he said. “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.”
Members of the Supreme Court (L-R) Associate Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, and Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Associate Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Elena Kagan, and Brett M. Kavanaugh pose in the Justices Conference Room prior to the formal investiture ceremony of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson September 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)
In a statement to ProPublica, Crow denied ever trying to influence Thomas or put him in positions where other influential people could do the same.
“The hospitality we have extended to the Thomas’s (sic) over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends,” part of the statement reads. “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. 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.”
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Last month, the Judicial Conference of the United States, which creates and oversees policies for federal courts, revised its ethics and financial disclosure guidelines to require the justices to disclose things like traveling by private jet and staying in resorts.
The ProPublica report sparked reaction from Senate Democrats who called for a strict code of ethics to be imposed on the nine justices.
FILE – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas delivers a keynote speech during a dedication of Georgia new Nathan Deal Judicial Center in Atlanta, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Thursday that Thomas’ alleged actions are “simply inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a Justice on the Supreme Court.”
“Today’s report demonstrates, yet again, that Supreme Court Justices must be held to an enforceable code of conduct, just like every other federal judge,” Durbin said in a Thursday statement. “The ProPublica report is a call to action, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will act.”
Progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., shared similar sentiments in her calls for accountability.
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“The American people deserve a federal judiciary that is accountable to the rule of law, not wealthy Republican donors. Today’s news is a stark reminder that judges should be held to the highest ethical standards and free from conflicts of interest,” Warren wrote on Twitter
Fox News Digital’s Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.