US supreme court justice Clarence Thomas said on Friday he was advised that the type of “personal hospitality” extended to him by real estate magnate and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow was not reportable.
Thomas, in a statement, said also that he has always sought to comply with disclosure guidelines.
ProPublica reported on Thursday that the long-serving justice accepted luxury trips from Crow over decades despite federal law requiring the disclosure of most gifts, prompting Senate Democrats to call for an investigation.
“Early in my tenure at the [supreme] 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.
Thomas faced renewed calls for impeachment on Thursday after the two decades of undisclosed luxury gifts was revealed. Thomas may have violated financial disclosure rules when he failed to disclose travel on yachts and jets and other gifts.
Citing new guidelines taking effect by the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure requirements for the entire federal judiciary, Thomas added: “It is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future.”
The revelations had prompted sharp criticism by Democrats of Thomas, who after 31 years is the longest-serving justice and an influential voice in the rightwing majority that last year ended the right to abortion.
Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and chair of the Senate judiciary committee, said: “This behavior is 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. The ProPublica report is a call to action, and the Senate judiciary committee will act.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive congresswoman from New York, tweeted: “This is beyond party or partisanship. This degree of corruption is shocking – almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached. Barring some dramatic change, this is what the [Chief Justice John] Roberts court will be known for: rank corruption, erosion of democracy, and the stripping of human rights.”
Impeachment remains unlikely, even given other calls regarding the pro-Trump activities of Thomas’s wife, the rightwing activist Ginni Thomas, and not just because Republicans hold the House. Only one supreme court justice has ever been impeached: Samuel Chase, in 1804-05. He was acquitted in the Senate.
On Thursday, in a statement, Crow had denied seeking to influence supreme court decisions. The Dallas businessman said he and his wife, Kathy, had been friends with the Thomases since 1996 and “the hospitality we have extended … is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends”.
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