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House Dems request DOJ probe of Clarence Thomas over gifts

Several Democrats sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland urging him to investigate the Supreme Court justice over lavish — and undisclosed — gifts.


Top Democrats are trying to send in the cavalry to rein in what is looking more and more like corruption on the Supreme Court

Attorney General Merrick Garland may have to suffice. 

Axios reported that five House Democrats sent a letter to Garland on Friday, calling on him to investigate Justice Clarence Thomas after the latest report about his being lavished with gifts from billionaires. The letter urges Garland to investigate Thomas “for consistently failing to report significant gifts he received from Harlan Crow and other billionaires for nearly two decades — in defiance of his duty under federal law.”

The five lawmakers — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jerry Nadler of New York, Ted Lieu of California, Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Hank Johnson of Illinois — claim that Thomas’ “consistent failure to disclose gifts and benefits from industry magnates and wealthy, politically active executives highlights a blatant disregard for judicial ethics as well as apparent legal violations.”

The Democrats also contend that the federal Ethics in Government Act authorizes the attorney general to bring a civil action against “any individual who knowingly and willfully falsifies or who knowingly and willfully fails to file or report any information that such individual is required to report.” 

In April, ProPublica reported that Crow has lavished Thomas with expensive, undisclosed gifts for more than 20 years, including luxury vacations. In response, Thomas claimed he had been “advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.” 

Last week, ProPublica expanded on its reporting by shining a light on the “industry titans and ultrawealthy executives” aside from Crow who have showered Thomas with luxury trips and other undisclosed gifts — like expensive sports tickets — over the years. As was discussed on “The ReidOut” last Thursday, some experts believe the gifts outlined in the new report may have broken disclosure laws. (Thomas did not immediately return NBC News’ request for comment.)

Here’s an excerpt of Joy’s interview with Don Fox, a former general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics:

The letter from House Democrats adds pressure on Garland to take action on Supreme Court ethics. It could be a tall order for Garland, who has been accused — justifiably, I might add — of running a sleepy operation at the DOJ when it comes to standing up for American democracy. 

The reports about Thomas seem too blatant to ignore. And Democrats are imploring Garland not to bury his head in the sand.