Justice Clarence Thomas took more trips paid for by donor Harlan Crow, Senate panel reveals

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin says his committee has uncovered at least three additional trips given to Justice Clarence Thomas by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow as part of the panel’s ethics investigation into the Supreme Court.

Durbin, D-Ill., said Thursday the committee obtained information from Crow that Thomas took three trips, and at least six flights, on Crow’s private jet in 2017, 2019 and 2021. The panel also found evidence of private jet travel during trips to Indonesia and California that Thomas recently disclosed in an amendment to a 2019 financial disclosure report.

The Democratic-led Judiciary panel launched the investigation last year after several reports that Thomas had for years received undisclosed expensive gifts, including international travel, from Crow. The committee has since pushed the Supreme Court to adopt a stronger ethics code as trips by Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito came to light, along with six-figure book deals received by other justices.

The new information “makes it crystal clear that the highest court needs an enforceable code of conduct, because its members continue to choose not to meet the moment,” Durbin said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from the court on the Senate report. In the past, Thomas has maintained that he is not required to disclose the many trips he and his wife took that were paid for the Texas megadonor because Crow and his wife Kathy are “among our dearest friends,” Thomas said in an April 2023 statement that he was advised by colleagues on the nation’s highest court and others in the federal judiciary that “this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.”

Thomas, 75, and his wife, Virginia, have traveled on Crow’s yacht and private jet in Indonesia as well as stayed at his private resort in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, ProPublica reported last year. ProPublica wrote that it could have cost more than $500,000 had Thomas chartered a plane and yacht himself.

Last week, Thomas said in his annual financial disclosure that Crow paid for a hotel room in Bali, Indonesia, for a single night in 2019, and food and lodging at a private club in Sonoma County, California, the same year. But he did not report the plane flights or the stay on Crow’s yacht.

In a statement released minutes after the Judiciary panel released its report, Crow’s office said he reached an agreement with the committee to provide information responsive to its requests going back seven years, “despite his serious and continued concerns about the legality and necessity of the inquiry.” The panel voted in November to authorize a subpoena for Crow as part of the probe, despite protests from all committee Republicans.

Crow, a longtime GOP donor based in Dallas, has maintained that he has never spoken with his friend about pending matters before the court.

The Judiciary panel said it will release a full report later this year. But among the details Durbin released Thursday were a 2017 trip Thomas took on Crow’s jet from St. Louis to Montana, along with a return flight from Montana to Dallas; round trip private jet travel in 2019 from Washington to Savannah, Ga., and a round trip flight on a private jet from Washington to San Jose, California, in 2021.

The committee said it also has evidence of private jet travel for the 2019 trip to Indonesia, along with documentation of the eight-day yacht excursion.

The justices adopted an ethics code in November, though Democrats say it is not strong enough because it lacks enforcement. The code treats travel, food and lodging as expenses rather than gifts, for which monetary values must be reported. Justices aren’t required to attach a value to expenses.

Starting last year, the justices also must report private plane travel that is given to them. Thomas has declined to report trips he took before those rules went into effect.


Associated Press writers Mark Sherman and Lindsay Whitehurst contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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