Clarence Thomas Hit with New Investigation Request

A duo of Democratic U.S. senators is urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to help launch an investigation into alleged ethics violations by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Thomas, the longest-serving member of the court and part of its conservative majority, has been under fire for an extended period over allegations that include failing to disclose a number of expensive gifts given to him by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow and never paying taxes on a more than $267,000 forgiven loan from another wealthy business owner.

On Tuesday, Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden announced in a news release that they had sent Garland a letter requesting that he appoint a special counsel to investigate the alleged violations of Thomas. Previous investigations of Thomas have been headed by Whitehouse and Wyden as chairs of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts and the Senate Finance Committee, respectively.

“We do not make this request lightly,” Whitehouse and Wyden write in the letter, which was sent on July 3. “The evidence assembled thus far plainly suggests that Justice Thomas has committed numerous willful violations of federal ethics and false-statement laws and raises significant questions about whether he and his wealthy benefactors have complied with their federal tax obligations.”

“Presented with opportunities to resolve questions about his conduct, Justice Thomas has maintained a suspicious silence,” they continue. “No government official should be above the law…We therefore request that you appoint a Special Counsel authorized to investigate potential criminal violations by Justice Thomas.”

Newsweek reached out for comment to the Department of Justice via online press contact form and a spokesperson for the Supreme Court via email on Tuesday evening.

The senators argued in their letter that the “appointment of a special counsel would serve the public interest,” maintaining that the “scale” of evidence against Thomas “warrants criminal investigation.” They also said the “full scope of Justice Thomas’s non-disclosures” was “still unknown.”

Controversy erupted following an April 2023 ProPublica report that detailed a series of undeclared “luxury trips” that were accepted by Thomas from Crow over a period of many years. The nonprofit news organization noted in the report that “the extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Crow defended the gifts to Thomas and his wife as examples of “hospitality” being extended to “dear friends.” Thomas also denied any wrongdoing, insisting in a statement that the gifts were “not reportable” and that he had sought out “guidance” before accepting them.

“Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” Thomas said. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”

Clarence Thomas Hit With New Investigation Request
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is pictured posing for an official photo in Washington, D.C., on October 7, 2022. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Ron Wyden announced this week that they had sent a request to…

Alex Wong