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Panel: Justice Thomas Took Paid Trips  06/14 06:16

   

   (AP) -- 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.

 
 
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