Senate Democrats are pushing for an investigation into luxury travel

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Senate Democrats are pushing for an investigation into luxury travel

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas poses during a group photo of the justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021.

Erin Schaaf | Pool | Reuters

The Democratic majority of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday called for an investigation into the conduct of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after a report revealed that he failed to disclose years of luxury travel funded by a Republican mega-donor.

Chief Justice John Roberts should “immediately begin” an investigation “into how such conduct could be carried out” on his watch, according to a letter from Speaker Dick Durbin of Illinois and the 10 other Senate Democrats.

The commission announced in the letter that it would hold a hearing “in the coming days” on “the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards.”

Democrats also warned they would “consider legislation to address” the issue if the high court didn’t do it itself.

The letter came three days after Thomas said he was told early in his tenure as a Supreme Court justice that “this kind of personal hospitality from close personal friends who had no business before the Court is not reportable.”

“I have tried to follow this advice throughout my tenure and have always sought to comply with disclosure guidelines,” Thomas said in a statement.

The 74-year-old justice, who has served on the nation’s highest court since 1991, responded to a ProPublica report last Thursday that he accepted expensive trips from wealthy GOP donor Harlan Crowe for more than two decades.

Crowe told ProPublica that “the hospitality we’ve extended to Thomas over the years is no different than the hospitality we’ve extended to many of our other dear friends.” That hospitality included vacations on Crowe’s 162-foot superyacht, flights on the GOP donor’s private jet and stays at his exclusive resort, according to ProPublica.

The investigation, which cited a trove of documents and interviews, also cited ethics experts who said Thomas appeared to have violated whistleblower law by not reporting the trips. But some judicial ethics experts said Thomas may not have been required to report the trips under the rules that were in place before they were updated last month.

Thomas’ statement noted that the reporting guidelines “are now changing because the Judicial Conference committee responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary announced new guidelines just this past month. And, of course, it is my intention to follow this lead in the future.”

The Senate Judiciary Panel’s letter to Roberts said Thomas’ failure to report the trips was “clearly inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any person in public trust.”

The letter came after Senate Majority Leader Durbin called for an “enforceable code of conduct” for judges who are not bound by the same ethics rules followed by other federal judges.

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