Dem Senators Want Special Counsel for Clarence Thomas

Whitehouse, Wyden ask AG Garland to investigate Thomas' 'suspicious silence' over gifts
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2024 7:07 AM CDT
Dem Senators Want Special Counsel for Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas poses for a photo at the Supreme Court Building in Washington on Oct. 7, 2022.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

After a slew of jarring stories tying Clarence Thomas to multiple undisclosed gifts, loans, and other perks from ultra-wealthy friends, two Democratic senators are now trying to get to the bottom of it. The Hill reports that Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Ron Wyden of Oregon have requested that Attorney General Merrick Garland appoint a special counsel to investigate the Thomas allegations, specifically on ethics and tax law fronts. "The breadth of the omissions uncovered to date, and the serious possibility of additional tax fraud and false statement violations by Justice Thomas and his associates, warrant the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate this misconduct," the two senators note in their letter to Garland dated July 3.

Whitehouse and Wyden add that "the scale of the potential ethics violations by Justice Thomas, and the willful pattern of disregard for ethics laws, exceeds the conduct of other government officials investigated by the Department of Justice for similar violations." The senators note that Thomas has been given the opportunity to answer questions about what happened, and that he maintained a "suspicious silence" or provided otherwise "uninformative" answers. Whitehouse and Wyden add that although Thomas "has claimed that some omissions were 'inadvertent,' and he has amended some past reports accordingly ... [he] has not disclosed all of the gifts that have been uncovered, and there may well be more."

"No government official should be above the law," the senators conclude. "Supreme Court justices are properly expected to obey laws designed to prevent conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety and to comply with the federal tax code." The New York Times notes that their request comes as Senate Democrats "are trying to force Supreme Court justices to comply with stricter ethics and financial disclosure rules." Last year, Justice Brett Kavanaugh said changes that would boost public confidence in the high court were on the way, though Chief Justice John Roberts hasn't exactly seemed to want to discuss that. (More Clarence Thomas stories.)

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