U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has responded to critics who called for his impeachment this week after a report from ProPublica alleged he may have violated the law by not disclosing certain gifts from a Republican mega-donor.
Harlan Crow, a wealthy Dallas real estate magnate and GOP donor, has maintained a friendship with Thomas for more than two decades. Over the years, Thomas has gone on several vacations, which have at times included overseas trips and jaunts on a 162-foot yacht, all paid for by Crow.
ProPublica asserted in an April 6 report that Thomas may have been engaged in improprieties by not reporting the trips on financial disclosures.
Per federal law, judges are required to file annual financial disclosure forms and are prohibited from accepting gifts from anyone with cases being heard by the court. Until last month, the judicial branch had not clearly defined exemptions for gifts considered “personal hospitality,” the Washington Post reported.
Under the federal guidelines in place prior to the recent change, the trips Thomas and Crow took were not required to have been disclosed in annual reporting.
The day after the ProPublica report, Thomas released a statement defending his actions.
“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. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”
Crow released a separate statement affirming his friendship with Thomas clarifying that neither the Justice nor his wife asked Crow for any hospitality and that they have never discussed cases.
“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 explained. “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. These are gatherings of friends.”