Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., criticized Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to abide by ethics rules that apply to other public servants in an interview on «Meet the Press» from NBC News on Sunday.
Thomas has faced scrutiny since ProPublica recently reported that it did not disclose gifts and luxury trips from wealthy Republican donor Harlan Crow. He too property sold to Crow, which was also not revealed. Those allegations have been referred to a judicial committee that reviews financial disclosures, NBC News reported last week.
Asked by host Chuck Todd whether Thomas’s alleged conduct would amount to a violation of law if he were a circuit court judge, Durbin said, «That’s exactly the point.»
«You’d say to yourself, ‘Well, that’s obvious.’ That’s the kind of stuff that needs to be revealed. That is a clear indication of a conflict of interest,» Durbin said on «Meet the Press.»
«So yes, there is no question in my mind that the Supreme Court has exempted itself from the rules that apply to the executive and legislative branches and even other judges,» he added.
Durbin last week asked Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before Congress in early May about ethics rules for Supreme Court justices and possible reforms following the Thomas revelations. Durbin said Saturday that Roberts had not yet responded to his invitation to testify before the committee.
Asked if he thinks Roberts turned down his invitation, Durbin said he doesn’t see that as an «official response.»
“We are still waiting for the Chief Justice to respond to my invitation,” Durbin said on “Meet the Press.” «I think that’s the first step that needs to be taken.»
Thomas has acknowledged that he did not disclose the trips paid for by Crow. In a statement this month, Thomas said Crow and his wife, Kathy, are «very dear friends» and that he and his wife have joined them on family trips for years.
“Early in my tenure on the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and they informed me that this type of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who had no business before the Court, was not reportable”, Thomas said.
“I have endeavored to follow that advice throughout my tenure and have always tried to adhere to disclosure guidelines,” he added.
Thomas said he would comply with the changes made to the disclosure rules that were announced last month. Those reviews made it clear that private jet travel and stays at privately owned resorts like the one Crow owns in upstate New York would have to be disclosed.
The change to the disclosure rules toughened an exemption for «personal hospitality» that was not strictly defined. The rules were changed weeks before ProPublica’s report on Thomas’ trips being financed by Crow.
julie tsirkin contributed.