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New documents show unreported trips by Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas, second from right, and his wife Virginia Thomas, center, attend the funeral service for late Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at Washington National Cathedral on Dec. 19 in Washington, D.C.  (Chip Somodevilla)
By Justin Jouvenal and Tobi Raji Washington Post

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took three previously unreported trips paid for by conservative Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, according to new documents released Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Details of the private jet flights between 2017 and 2021 were obtained as part of an investigation the committee has been conducting into reports of lavish undisclosed travel and perks provided to justices by Crow and other wealthy benefactors that have sparked calls for reform.

Crow released the information after the committee issued subpoenas in November for him and conservative activist Leonard Leo to provide information to the body. The subpoenas have never been enforced.

Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the documents provided necessary transparency and the trips should have been reported on financial disclosures.

“The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Supreme Court’s ethical crisis is producing new information – like what we’ve revealed today – and makes it crystal clear that the highest court needs an enforceable code of conduct, because its members continue to choose not to meet the moment,” Durbin said in a statement.

Crow said in a statement that he had reached an agreement with the Senate Judiciary Committee to provide information going back seven years.

Thomas’ unreported flights include the following:

• A May 2017 private jet trip from St. Louis to Kalispell, Montana, and a return flight to Dallas.

• A March 2019 private jet trip from D.C. to Savannah, Georgia, and back.

• A June 2021 private jet trip from D.C. to San Jose and back.

Elliot S. Berke, an attorney for Thomas, said in a statement: “The information that Harlan Crow provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee fell under the ‘personal hospitality exemption’ and was not required to be disclosed by Justice Thomas.”

Thomas has complied with new disclosure requirements, Berke said.

The disclosures come after Thomas revealed this month that he failed to report two 2019 trips to California and Indonesia that were also paid for by Crow. Thomas did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats attempted to expedite passage of a bill that would provide a binding code of ethics for the Supreme Court, but the effort was scuttled by Republicans who said the legislation’s true aim was to undermine a conservative court whose rulings Democrats don’t like.

Leo said in a statement in November after the subpoenas were issued that he “will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution.” Durbin’s office said the Judiciary Committee’s broader investigation of Supreme Court ethics is ongoing.

The committee probe was prompted by reports in ProPublica and other media outlets that Thomas and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. took expensive trips without disclosing them in recent years. Crow also paid tuition for a Thomas relative and purchased the home of the justice’s mother.

“It is astonishing that at this late date, there continue to be revelations of gifts to Justice Thomas that he has never disclosed,” said Steven Lubet, a professor and judicial ethics expert at Northwestern University’s law school.

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Aaron Schaffer contributed to this report.