Clarence Thomas’ is indefensible except to these right-wingers
It’s being called “the biggest legitimacy crisis in the modern history of the Supreme Court.” Thursday’s bombshell report from ProPublica, its third investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his billionaire benefactor, reveals GOP mega-donor Harlan Crow paid the private school tuition – up to $150,000 – for Thomas’ legal ward, his grandnephew who lived with the Thomas’ from the age of six.
Legal and political experts, including two Democratic U.S. Senators, have weighed in. Some are calling it corruption.
It’s not possible to ignore Justice Thomas’ possibly unlawful refusal to disclose at least some of the expensive gifts he received from Harlan Crow. Legal and ethics experts, ProPublica has reported, make clear that, not disclosing the travel portions of the vacations “appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts.”
Others will say given the magnitude of the gifts – luxury vacations, lodging, food, clothing, not to mention the purchase of his mother’s house as she continues to live in it rent-free, and now the expensive private boarding school tuition – Justice Thomas, a public servant, had an ethical obligation to disclose the gifts.
On the right, Justice Thomas is being staunchly defended.
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Political scientist Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a contributing editor for the Atlantic lamented, “Clarence Thomas could shoot somebody in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and Lindsey Graham, John Kennedy, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and all the rest of them would still support him.”
The reference, of course, is to then-candidate Donald Trump’s braggadocios 2016 remark, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Seven-plus years later, as he has yet to be charged for his role in the insurrection, his role in attempts to overturn the 2020 election that he lost, his retention and refusal to return hundreds of documents with classified markings removed from the White House and stored on his Mar-a-Lago residence, seems to be more true than many Americans would have believed – or care to admit.
On Tuesday, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court ethics – which Chief Justice John Roberts declined to attend despite a personal invitation from chairman Dick Durbin – Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), “accused Democrats of an effort to ‘cherry-pick’ examples of travel and gifts to undermine conservative justices,” and, in “an unseemly effort” to “delegitimize the Roberts court,” as The New York Times reported.
U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), also during Tuesday’s hearing, blasted Democrats and their “thuggish shakedown,” for, apparently, wanting to not have any corruption on the nation’s highest court. He claims that the investigations revealing Thomas’ corruption are just cover for Democrats’ disagreement with his rulings.
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“The radical left’s continued attacks on Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni over the last 31 and a half years are part of a sustained, hateful attempt to discredit an honest man,” declared Senator Lee – ignoring the mountains of evidence of apparent corruption and his possibly unlawful refusal to disclose expensive gifts.
Calling Thomas a “principled jurist,” “one of our greatest American success stories,” “a humble citizen who rose from poverty in the segregated south,” and “one of the most influential jurists our country has ever known,” Lee says, “those leading the charge against Justice Thomas would have us believe that he simply couldn’t think for himself that he can’t think for himself and so his wife and his wife, his wife, friends must tell him what to think. And the truth is the left simply disagrees with his decisions.”
Lee goes on to claim that Democrats “obviously can’t persuade the American people to adopt their radical policies through legislation. So they’re attempting to destroy the court’s credibility and intimidate the Republican-appointed justices and their families.”
“Starting with Justice Thomas, you’re making clear that justices who disagree with them will pay a price. It’s a price that the radical left is determined to ensure is very high. This is all just a thuggish shakedown. ‘Nice Supreme Court you’ve got there, America, sure would be a shame if something happened to it.'”
Sen. Lee, then went back to Twitter and blasted the Democrats again: “When this chapter of American history is written, those who attack Justice Thomas today will be justly dismissed as intolerant bigots. To my liberal friends I sincerely ask: do you really want to join that club?”
How bad was Lee’s tweet? Conservative Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark accused the Utah Republican of playing the “race card.”
Then there’s Ann Coulter.
Defending the far-right jurist, she writes on Thursday: “Having failed to destroy Clarence Thomas 32 years ago with preposterous sexual harassment charges (disbelieved at the time by 60% of Americans), now the left is resorting to attacking the ethics of a man vastly more honorable than the collection of degenerates reviling him.”
Those “degenerates” apparently are Democrats.
“The sole purpose of the media’s sudden fixation on the Supreme Court’s ‘ethics’ is to morally intimidate conservative justices by reminding them that the left controls the culture.”
Stop and take a look at that.
There is now a great deal of documented evidence of unethical and possibly unlawful corruption swirling around Justice Thomas, which Coulter refers to as “ethics” in scare quotes.
Coulter, who has a law degree, clearly knows what she’s doing, and yet is doing it anyway.
Others on the right are also defending Justice Thomas, perhaps none as adamantly as attorney Mark Paoletta, who served as Donald Trump’s general counsel in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), represented Ginni Thomas with the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, and, as he declares, is a friend of Justice Thomas.
“This story is another attempt to manufacture a scandal about Justice Thomas,” Paoletta writes on Twitter in a lengthy defense of Clarence and Ginni Thomas. “But let’s be clear about what is supposedly scandalous now: Justice Thomas and his wife devoted twelve years of their lives to taking in and caring for a beloved child—who was not their own—just as Justice Thomas’s grandparents had done for him. They made many personal and financial sacrifices to do this. And along the way, their friends joined them in doing everything possible to give this child a future.”
“Harlan Crow’s tuition payments made directly to these schools on behalf of Justice Thomas’s great nephew did not constitute a reportable gift,” Paoletta says, a claim some have supported from a legal standpoint, while others disagree. “Justice Thomas was not required to disclose the tuition payments made directly to Randolph Macon and the Georgia school on behalf of his great nephew because the definition of a ‘dependent child’ under the Ethics in Government Act (5 U.S.C. 13101 (2)) does not include a ‘great nephew.’ It is limited to a ‘son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter.’ Justice Thomas never asked Harlan Crow to pay for his great nephew’s tuition. And neither Harlan Crow, nor his company, had any business before the Supreme Court.”
What Paolettta neglects to mention are the ethical expectations of being a pubic servant, especially of being a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, all of whom should be above reproach and avoid even the possibility of appearance of impropriety.
“This malicious story shows nothing except for the fact that the Thomases and the Crows are kind, generous, and loving people who tried to help this young man,” Paoletta claims.
That’s not in contention.
No one is accusing Justice Thomas of not being a loving person or who “tried to help this young man.” Those who are angered and outraged are angered and outraged because Justice Thomas didn’t feel the American people deserved to know that a billionaire GOP megadonor yet again is funding Thomas’ lifestyle, and Thomas is not telling America the facts.
As to Paoletta’s claim Harlan Crow had no business before the Supreme Court, a Bloomberg News article from last month disagrees.
Responding to Paoletta’s lengthy tweet, former Wall Street Journal managing editor Bill Grueskin, now a Columbia Journalism School professor, notes, “the reason you send ‘tuition payments directly to the school’ is so it doesn’t trigger a tax liability for the child or his relatives.”
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