The statement from Thomas is remarkable in its existence as well as its content—he’s not usually big on answering to the little people.
Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years. 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. I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines. 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.
Going in order: Harlan and Kathy Crow are among Clarence and Ginni Thomas’ dearest friends, and have been friends for over 25 years—but Thomas has been on the Supreme Court for well over 25 years. This is a donor to Republicans and to right-wing organizations who befriended a Supreme Court justice. They can be friends, but “oh, we’ve been friends for so long that it shows it’s not about my position on the court” is contradicted by the timeline.
“As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips.” Those “family trips” include private jet flights to time on a superyacht, accompanied in at least one instance by someone who was at the time a Trump administration official. Thomas also reportedly spends about a week most years at Crow’s private resort, where a painting hangs of the two men relaxing and smoking cigars with Federalist Society leader Leonard Leo. But not, we are to believe, discussing anything that in any way touches on Supreme Court business, even though Leo’s entire mission in life is a right-wing takeover of the courts. Just a bunch of guys sitting around not talking about any of the things they have in common, which also happen to be their life’s work.
“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.” In addition to Leo’s presence on some of these “family trips,” Crow is a longtime member of the board of the American Enterprise Institute, a major right-wing think tank. During those years, which coincide closely with his dear personal friendship with Clarence Thomas, AEI has filed amicus briefs in multiple Supreme Court cases.
As to the defense that the guidelines have only just changed, Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern argue that while the updated guidelines for financial disclosure do close loopholes directly applicable to Thomas, it was pretty clear under the previous rules that private jet flights were not personal hospitality. Under the old wording, personal hospitality meant “hospitality extended for a nonbusiness purpose by one, not a corporation or organization, at the personal residence of that person or his family or on property or facilities owned by that person or family.” Is a private jet a “facility”? And that language would still appear to have applied to a private resort owned through a company rather than as personal family property.
Additionally, there was a time when Thomas did disclose gifts from Crow. Mostly he disclosed things like a Bible that had belonged to Frederick Douglass, a gift he valued at $19,000. But he included private plane flights on disclosures as well—a practice the Los Angeles Times now notes he stopped after the newspaper reported on the gifts.
Thomas says he’ll disclose in future now that we all know about his vacations anyway. But while his legal requirement may be for disclosure, the ethical issues involved in him accepting such largesse from a major political donor and AEI board member don’t disappear. Then again, Clarence Thomas doesn’t care much for ethics. (And the claim that there is never any discussion of matters before the court? That one falls under the category of “would be hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous.”)
Our planned Ukraine episode will have to wait, as Donald Trump is being arraigned in New York City for his role in falsifying records to hide hush money paid to Stormy Daniels. This is the first of a potential slew of indictments coming Trump’s way, and we are here for a celebration of karmic justice—and to talk about what happens to the Republican Party after this.
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