Senate Democrat Reveals More Undisclosed Trips by Justice Thomas on Gop Megadonor’s Private Jet

Senate Democrat Reveals More Undisclosed Trips by Justice Thomas on Gop Megadonor's Private Jet

Justice Clarence Thomas took several more trips aboard GOP megadonor Harlan Crow’s private plane than previously reported, a key Senate Democrat claimed Thursday.

According to evidence received by Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, Thomas flew on Crow’s private plane between several US states in 2017, 2019, and 2021, as well as on a previously reported 2019 trip to Indonesia, when Thomas stayed aboard Crow’s mega-yacht.

The newly discovered private plane travels contribute to the picture of Thomas’s lavish travel, which is funded by friends of the judge with conservative political affiliations. Thomas has faced criticism for failing to report such travels on the financial disclosure forms that the justices submit each year, despite the fact that he and his supporters claim he followed the court’s disclosure requirements as they were understood at the time.

The disclosure was expected to exacerbate tensions between the Supreme Court, where conservatives have a 6-3 majority, and Democrats on Capitol Hill, who have been advocating for stricter ethics rules for more than a year. A series of ethics scandals involving Thomas and, more recently, Justice Samuel Alito have resulted in historically low public approval of the court.

Last year, amid ProPublica stories about the justice’s jet-setting lifestyle, the federal judiciary’s policy-making body said that travel on private planes should be reported by the justices, closing a loophole that Thomas claimed exempted him from reporting the “personal hospitality” he received from his uber-wealthy friends. Critics say that the court’s current understanding of the disclosure obligations should be applied retrospectively.

Thomas, through a court spokesperson, did not respond to a CNN question about the new facts or why the travels were not revealed.

He previously stated that he was instructed at the time that he was not obligated to declare the hospitality he got from the Crows, but that he planned to follow the latest modifications to the guidance in the future. His supporters have pointed to a 2012 letter from the Judicial Conference, which oversees the standards governing judges’ financial declarations, which cleared him of charges that he should have reported his trips with Crow.

Last week, with the release of his financial disclosures for 2023, Thomas stated that he had “inadvertently omitted” from previous financial filings a hotel stay paid for by the Crows during their 2019 trip to Indonesia, as well as his accommodations that same year at a private club to which they belong in Monte Rio, California.

However, he did not mention his travel on Crow’s private plane for either of the flights disclosed by Durbin.

According to Durbin’s paperwork, Thomas also flew on Crow’s plane from St. Louis to Montana and subsequently to Dallas in 2017, a round trip from Washington, DC to Savannah, Georgia in 2019, and a round trip from Washington, DC to San Jose, California in 2021.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Supreme Court’s ethical crisis is producing new information, such as what we’ve revealed today, and makes it crystal clear that the highest court needs an enforceable code of conduct because its members continue to choose not to meet the moment.” Durbin said in a statement, referring to Supreme Court ethics legislation introduced by Senate Democrats. Republicans blocked Durbin’s procedural motion on Wednesday to get the bill passed on the Senate floor.

Elliot Berke, Thomas’ attorney, claimed the travels highlighted by Senate Democrats on Thursday were under the “hospitality exemption.” Thomas and others previously stated that they believed the disclosure standards to exclude circumstances involving “personal hospitality.”

“Consequently, and as Justice Thomas has already explained, he and many other federal judges were advised that they were not required to report gifts of personal hospitality from friends who did not have business before the Court,” Berke said on CNN.

Mark Paoletta, a former top Trump administration official and close Thomas ally, also stated on X that Thomas disclosed the hotel and private club stays from previous trips because they were not covered by the personal hospitality exemption – even before the 2023 changes to the disclosure guidance. He contended that a justice’s stays at a friend’s “home, planes,” and “boats” were excluded from the restrictions until the 2023 modification.

Durbin and other Democrats launched investigations into Thomas’s gifts and lavish travel following a bombshell ProPublica report detailing the Thomases’ trip to Indonesia, during which Thomas and his wife Ginni Thomas stayed on Crow’s 162-foot yacht, as well as other extravagant trips taken with Crow and Crow’s wife.

Crow, whom Thomas has characterized as one of his family’s “dearest friends,” has stated that he has never discussed judicial matters with Thomas.

“Mr. Crow reached an agreement with the Senate Judiciary Committee to provide information responsive to its requests going back seven years,” Crow spokesperson Michael Zona said of the documents released Thursday.

“Despite his strong and ongoing reservations about the legitimacy and necessity of the inquiry, Mr. Crow engaged in good faith negotiations with the Committee from the start to resolve the issue. As a condition of this arrangement, the Committee agreed to discontinue its investigation into Mr. Crow,” Zona stated.

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