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Clarence Thomas discloses 2022 private flights from Harlan Crow, defends past omissions

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(WASHINGTON) — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says he accepted five private jet flights from personal friend and GOP megadonor Harlan Crow last year, according to financial disclosure documents released Thursday.

On one trip in February 2022, Thomas reports accepting a return flight from Dallas, Texas, “due to unexpected ice storm.” On a separate occasion in May 2022, Thomas cited the recommendation of his security detail to take roundtrip noncommercial travel because of “increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak,” referring to the draft of the decision that would later overrule Roe v. Wade in June.

Last summer, Thomas says he was a guest at Crow’s upstate New York estate, accepting roundtrip transportation, meals and lodging from his friend.

The items are listed as “reimbursements” in Thomas’ 2022 Financial Disclosure Report, which federal law requires all federal officials to complete each year. It details sources of income, gifts, reimbursements, and investments.

Thomas said he consulted with the Supreme Court’s legal office, Judicial Conference Financial Disclosure Committee and his personal counsel in making sure he was in compliance with the guidelines and whether an amendments of past reports should be required.

The justice did not amend any past reports to list previously undisclosed private flights or hospitality from Crow, noting that only in March of this year did the federal judicial guidelines change to explicitly require judges to report “transportation that substitutes for commercial transportation.” Previously, the rules stated any “personal hospitality” did not need to be reported.

Thomas did, however, determine that some information was “inadvertently omitted” from past reports.

In an addendum, Thomas lists personal bank accounts and his wife Ginni Thomas’ life insurance which were left off reports from 2017 to 2021, and a real estate transaction with Crow first revealed earlier this year by the investigative news site ProPublica.

The outlet reported that Crow had purchased three Georgia properties from Thomas in 2014 — including the home that Thomas’ mother still lives in — in a transaction that was never publicly reported.

Thomas confirms the $133,000 deal in the new filing, explaining that he “inadvertently failed to realize” that the sale was reportable even though it “resulted in a capital loss.”

Controversy over Justice Thomas’ financial disclosure compliance has triggered intense scrutiny of the Supreme Court’s ethics practices and prompted Democrats in Congress to advance legislation aimed at tightening the rules and imposing independent oversight. Republicans say the focus on Thomas is a partisan smear aimed at discrediting the conservative majority.

In the new report, Thomas vows to comply with the federal judicial guidelines for disclosure, noting that going forward, all trips provided by Harlan Crow and other friends will be reported.

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