Erin Schaff/Associated Press
- Justice Thomas defended himself after a bombshell report raised questions about his financial disclosures.
- Thomas said that he had followed guidance by not disclosing lavish trips financed by a GOP megadonor who he considers a close friend.
- Congressional Democrats vowed swift action in the wake of the latest Thomas-related imbroglio.
Justice Clarence Thomas issued a rare public statement on Friday arguing that he was following guidance from colleagues and other judges when he failed to publicly disclose years’ worth of lavish trips financed by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow.
“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 in a statement released by the Supreme Court’s press office.
Thomas said that he has always sought to comply with federal law requiring judges such as himself to disclose most gifts. He added that as ethics standards are being updated, he would “follow this guidance in the future.”
Thomas’ explanation comes a day after ProPublica’s bombshell report that extensively detailed how Crow secretly finance private trips Thomas took for over 20 years.
The publication estimated that the total cost of just one trip to Indonesia, a nine-day excursion via both a private plane and a 162-foot yacht, would have cost in excess of $500,000.
Thomas said that Crows “are among our dearest friends” and confirmed that he and his wife, Virginia, who goes by “Ginni” have joined Crow and his wife Kathy “on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them.” The trips are just the latest imbroglio for the Thomases, who have faced intense criticism over Ginni Thomas’ actions before the January 6 Capitol riot. Multiple senior congressional Democrats, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, vowed swift action in the wake of the ProPublica report.
In his statement, Thomas said he was advised by “colleagues and others in the judiciary” not to report “this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends” who do not have business before the nation’s highest court. Thomas added that his private advice was conveyed “early in my tenure.”
This appears to conflict with an earlier practice by Thomas, who once did report Crow’s gifts.
In 2004, more than a decade after his confirmation, The Los Angles Times reported on a $19,000 Bible and other gifts Crow gave to Thomas.
At that time, the justice had disclosed those gifts as required by the post-Watergate law that generally requires such transparency.
Multiple ethics experts told ProPublica that Thomas had clearly violated ethics requirements by not disclosing the more recent trips.