Clarence Thomas took additional undisclosed trips paid for by GOP megadonor, Senate committee says

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was given additional undisclosed trips by a GOP megadonor that were not included in his financial disclosure forms, according to documents the Senate Judiciary Committee released Thursday.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Judiciary Committee, released records about gifts of private jet travel provided by Thomas’ billionaire friend, Harlan Crow, that included plane trips in 2017, 2019 and 2021.

“As a result of our investigation and subpoena authorization, we are providing the American public greater clarity on the extent of ethical lapses by Supreme Court justices and the need for ethics reform,” Durbin said in a statement.

The documents were released a day after Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempt to pass Supreme Court ethics legislation that the committee advanced nearly a year ago.

In a statement Thursday, Crow’s office said he had reached an agreement with the Judiciary Committee to provide information dating back seven years.

“Despite his serious and continued concerns about the legality and necessity of the inquiry, Mr. Crow engaged in good faith with the Committee,” his office said. “As a condition of this agreement, the Committee agreed to end its probe with respect to Mr. Crow.”

A spokesperson for Durbin told NBC News in a statement that the committee “reached an agreement with Mr. Crow for information and materials that was sufficient for compliance with the Committee’s request and subpoena authorization.”

An attorney for Thomas defended his disclosure practices.

“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,” attorney Elliot S. Berke said in a statement Thursday, adding that the Judicial Conference — the administrative office of the U.S. courts — “changed this provision last year, and Justice Thomas has fully complied with the new disclosure requirement.”

Thomas last week acknowledged a pair of trips in 2019 with Crow in his annual financial disclosure report that correspond to trips ProPublica reported last year.

The response from Berke echoed Thomas’ statement last year that referred to the undisclosed travel as “personal hospitality from close personal friends,” not business.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee cited a statute Thursday detailing financial disclosure requirements for federal personnel, which says that “food, lodging, or entertainment received as personal hospitality of an individual need not be reported,” while contending that the law requires disclosing travel given as gifts. They said they planned to release a report on their investigation of Supreme Court ethics this summer.

A Supreme Court spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday about the travel records the committee released.

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