Dem Lawmakers Probe Judge

Hello everyone! Gather ’round for a wild ride through the latest political drama. It’s about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and the swirling controversy over gifts and benefits he received from wealthy benefactors.

Buckle up because Democratic Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D.-Ore.) are pushing for a criminal investigation that could shake the foundations of the highest court in the land.

So, what exactly is going down? Senators Whitehouse and Wyden have sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate Justice Thomas. The allegations? Gifts of travel, a loan for a luxury RV, and other benefits that Thomas received but allegedly failed to disclose. The request marks a significant escalation in the ongoing efforts by Democrats to address ethics controversies involving the Supreme Court.

This request for a special counsel is unprecedented. Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge, mentioned that while the Justice Department has the authority to appoint a special counsel, doing so would inevitably be seen as politically motivated. And that’s a tricky box to get out of.

But wait, there’s more! Let’s talk about the juicy details. The senators want the special counsel to look into a $267,000 loan Thomas used to buy a luxury motorcoach. According to an investigation, a significant portion of this loan was forgiven, but Thomas allegedly didn’t report it on his financial disclosure forms. This raises serious questions about whether he reported it as income on his taxes, as required by law.

Thomas’s attorney, Elliot S. Berke, has defended the justice, claiming Thomas has always strived for transparency and adherence to the law. He chalks up any failures to disclose as “strictly inadvertent.” But Whitehouse and Wyden aren’t buying it. They’re also pushing for an investigation into multiple instances of undisclosed travel, yacht trips, home renovations, tuition, luxury sports tickets, and other gifts.

Many of these gifts were provided by Harlan Crow, a Texas billionaire and major Republican donor. The senators are particularly interested in whether Thomas’s benefactors paid gift taxes and if there were any coordinated efforts requiring additional disclosures.

Oh, and let’s not forget the $25,000 in consulting fees directed to Thomas’s wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, by conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo. This payment has raised questions about whether Thomas should have recused himself from certain cases, given the potential conflict of interest.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently revealed that Thomas took three flights paid for by Crow between 2017 and 2021 that he did not disclose. Thomas’s attorney argues these flights were not required to be disclosed due to the timing relative to a policy change. However, Thomas did report three trips on Crow’s jet during 2022 after the high court clarified its ethics rules.

With the Justice Department staying mum on the request and the potential for significant political fallout, this saga is far from over. Will Attorney General Garland appoint a special counsel? Will Justice Thomas face serious repercussions? Stay tuned, folks, because this story is just heating up.