Critics mock defense of Clarence Thomas’ secret luxury travels

Under fire after the report offered detailed insight into his decades of billionaire-funded luxury vacations, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas claimed on Friday he was “advised” by colleagues for not reporting personal hospitality gifts from friends, a story that drew immediate derision from lawmakers and legal analysts.

In a statement responding to ProPublicaIt is reportswhich shed light on trips funded by billionaire real estate mogul Harlan Crow, Thomas acknowledged joining the GOP megadonor and his wife on “a number” of family trips over the past two decades, but insisted he was told such hospitality “from close friends, who had no business in court, was not to be reported.”

“I have endeavored to follow this attorney throughout my tenure and have always sought to comply with disclosure guidelines,” said Thomas, who in 2011 modified 20 years financial disclosure forms after failing to disclose income his wife, Ginni Thomas, received from the right-wing Heritage Foundation and other organizations.

Thomas claimed at the time that he had a “misunderstanding of deposit instructions”, an excuse which watch dogs found highly implausible.

On Friday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.) scoffed at Thomas’ explanation for refusing to disclose his many luxury vacations, specifically criticizing the justice’s claim that those involved in the trips n had nothing to do in court.

ProPublica reported that Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo, who helped shift the US justice system to the right, was among the guests on a Crow-funded trip that Thomas attended.

“Oh, please,” Whitehouse tweeted in response to Thomas’ statement. “If you smoke cigars with Leonard Leo and other right-wing fix-ups, you should know that they don’t just have cases in court, their case IS the court.”

Mark Joseph Stern, Legal Writer for Slateadded that the judge’s statement “disregards Thomas’ alleged use of Crow’s private jet for his own personal travel, likely because it cannot comply with disclosure guidelines in effect at the time. “.

ProPublica reported that Thomas’ travels included several flights on Crows’ private jet and rides on his superyacht, none of which were revealed by the court. The investigative journal noted that “Thomas even used the plane for a three-hour trip.”

“On February 11, 2016, the plane flew from Dallas to Dulles in New Haven, Connecticut, before returning later that afternoon,” ProPublica revealed. “There are no reports that Thomas made a public appearance that day, and the purpose of the trip remains unclear.”

AccordingThe Washington PostThomas “said he had only received two gifts since 2004” – a bronze bust of Frederick Douglass, who came from Crow, and an award from Yale Law School.

After the Los Angeles Timesreported in 2004 that Thomas “had accepted expensive gifts and private plane travel paid for by Harlan Crow,” Justice “appears to have continued to accept free trips from his wealthy friend,” the newspaper reported Thursday.

“But he stopped disclosing them,” said the Time added.

Thursday, Stern and his colleagues Slate court writer Dahlia Lithwick argued that by failing to report Crow’s gifts, Thomas “broke the law, and it’s not particularly close”.

“The best argument in his defense is that the old definition of ‘personal hospitality’ did not require him to disclose transportation, including private flights,” the pair wrote. “This reading only works by torturing the English language beyond recognition. The old rule, like the law it derives from, defines the term as hospitality that is “prolonged” either “in” a personal residence or “on” their “property or facilities”.

“A person determined to defend Thomas might be able to fit these yacht trips into this definition, arguing that by accommodating Thomas on his boat for food, drink and tours, Crow ‘extended’ the hospitality” on” his own property. But lending the private jet for Thomas’s personal use? Come on. There’s no plausible way to string those trips together in the old rule – which quotes the law verbatim – even under the broadest interpretation imaginable.

Following pressure from Whitehouse and other lawmakers, the United States Judicial Conference – the decision-making body of the federal courts –clarified its disclosure requirements surrounding “personal hospitality”.

The updated regulations state that the disclosure exemptions do not include “gifts other than food, lodging, or entertainment, such as transportation that substitutes for commercial transportation” — such as a private jet.

representing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) said in a interview with The lever Thursday that articles of impeachment against Thomas “must be introduced” in response to ProPublica‘s revelations.

“If no one wants to submit it, I would definitely be willing to do it and write it myself,” the New York Democrat said. “I think it went far, far beyond any sort of acceptable standard in any democracy, let alone American democracy.”

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