The Republican megadonor whose gifts to the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas have come under the spotlight has a private collection including a garden of statues of dictators, including Mussolini and Stalin; Nazi memorabilia; and paintings including two works by Adolf Hitler, the Washingtonian reported.
“I still can’t get over the collection of Nazi memorabilia,” the Washingtonian quoted an anonymous source as saying, regarding a visit to Harlan Crow’s Texas home. “It would have been helpful to have someone explain the significance of all the items. Without that context, you sort of just gasp when you walk into the room.”
Crow, the source said, also had paintings “done by George W Bush next to a Norman Rockwell next to one by Hitler”.
A painting of Thomas and Crow smoking cigars in company including the rightwing activist Leonard Leo was included in an explosive report by ProPublica, detailing Crow’s lavish gifts to Thomas over more than 25 years.
ProPublica also described trips on private planes and yachts and stays at lavish resorts.
In a rare statement, Thomas said he had been advised such “personal hospitality” did not have to be declared under federal rules.
He added: “I have endeavoured to follow that counsel throughout my tenure and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”
Critics said Thomas had “clearly” broken the law regarding the declaration of gifts. The Washington Post noted Thomas has declared just two since 2004.
Crow denied discussing or seeking to influence the court through his friendship with Thomas and his wife, the far-right activist Ginni Thomas.
Critics questioned that, given Crow’s seat on the board of the American Enterprise Institute, a rightwing thinktank which regularly files amicus briefs with the court.
Outraged Democrats promised investigations and, in the case of the New York Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, threatened to introduce articles of impeachment.
Thomas is the senior conservative on a conservative-dominated court that has issued controversial rulings including Dobbs v Jackson, which last year removed the federal right to abortion.
But impeachment and removal is highly unlikely. Supreme court justices effectively govern themselves. Only one has ever been impeached, in 1804, before being acquitted. Republicans hold the House, where impeachment would start.
Still, news of Crow’s far-right memorabilia seemed bound to add to Thomas’s embarrassment – perhaps in part because Thomas has written that arguments for abortion rights spring from theories of eugenics, as espoused by Hitler and the Nazis.
When Thomas made that argument, in an opinion in 2019, Philippa Levine, a University of Texas history professor, told the Washington Post the justice was “guilty of a gross misuse of historical facts”.
On Friday, the Washingtonian published pictures of Thomas’s friend’s collection of Nazi artefacts, which includes a signed copy of Hitler’s memoir, Mein Kampf.
The magazine also noted how the Florida senator Marco Rubio ran into problems in 2015, over a Crow-hosted fundraiser on the eve of Yom Kippur.
The year before that, the Dallas Morning News reported that Crow became “visibly uncomfortable” with questions about his dictator statues and collectibles of Hitler, whose regime murdered 6 million Jews during the Holocaust.
The paper described the statues of dictators as “a historical nod to the facts of man’s inhumanity to man”.
Crow also reportedly owns statues of two British prime ministers he counts among his heroes: Winston Churchill – who defeated Hitler – and Margaret Thatcher.
The megadonor and his wife were “such hospitable Texas hosts”, according to the Washingtonian’s source.
But, the source added, it was “just strange – they had family photos in one room, then all this world war II stuff in another room, and dictators in the backyard”.
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