'Not appropriate': Lawyers with Supreme Court business sent Venmo payments to former Clarence Thomas aide

'Not appropriate': Lawyers with Supreme Court business sent Venmo payments to former Clarence Thomas aide

Justice Clarence Thomas, now 75, has never been more influential on the U.S. Supreme Court — or more controversial.

During the 1990s and 2000s, Thomas' views were not typical of the High Court on the whole. The Court leaned conservative in those days, but Ronald Reagan-appointed Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor had issues with Thomas' far-right social conservatism. So did the late Justice John Paul Stevens, appointed by Republican President Gerald R. Ford in 1975.

The Court, however, has since moved so far to the right that Thomas has way more influence than he did 20 or 30 years ago. And he has been inundated with controversy, from his wife, Ginni Thomas' efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results to a series of bombshell reports in ProPublica detailing the gifts he received from billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow — and failed to report.

READ MORE: 'Stonewalling': Tensions escalate between Harlan Crow and US Senate over gifts to Clarence Thomas

Now, questions are being raised about Rajan Vasisht, a former Justice Thomas aide.

The Guardian's Stephanie Kirchgaessner, in a report published on July 12, explains, "Several lawyers who have had business before the Supreme Court, including one who successfully argued to end race-conscious admissions at universities, paid money to a top aide to Justice Clarence Thomas, according to the aide's Venmo transactions. The payments appear to have been made in connection to Thomas' 2019 Christmas party."

The reporter adds, "The payments to Rajan Vasisht, who served as Thomas' aide from July 2019 to July 2021, seem to underscore the close ties between Thomas — who is embroiled in ethics scandals following a series of revelations about his relationship with a wealthy billionaire donor — and certain senior Washington lawyers who argue cases and have other business in front of the justice."

The former Thomas aide's Venmo account, according to Kirchgaessner, shows that in late 2019, he "received seven payments" from "lawyers who previously served as Thomas legal clerks."

READ MORE: Busted: Analysis reveals billionaire Clarence Thomas benefactor gave millions to dark money groups

The attorneys who made the Venmo transactions, Kirchgaessner reports, included Kate Todd (who was a White House deputy counsel under former President Donald Trump), Consovoy McCarthy (who made anti-affirmative action arguments to the Court), Elbert Lin (former West Virginia solicitor general and a major critic of environmental policies), and the late Will Consovoy.

Richard Painter, ex-chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, believes it is "not appropriate" for former Thomas clerks to essentially send the High Court payments via Venmo.

Painter told The Guardian, "There is no excuse for it. Thomas could invite them to his Christmas party, and he could attend Christmas parties as long as they are not discussing any cases. His Christmas party should not be paid for by lawyers. A federal government employee collecting money from lawyers for any reason.… I don't see how that works."

READ MORE: Ron DeSantis wants to 'improve' the Supreme Court toward the 'gold standard' of Clarence Thomas

The Guardian's full report is available at this link.

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