Clarence Thomas Took Free Yacht Trip to Russia, Chopper Flight to Putin’s Hometown: Dems

Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters
Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been accused of not disclosing a yacht trip to Russia and a private helicopter flight to a palace in President Vladimir Putin’s hometown, among a slew of other gifts and loans from businessman Harlan Crow.

Buried on page 14 of a letter that two Democratic senators sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday, in which they urged Garland to appoint a special counsel to probe Thomas, was an astonishing list of dozens of “likely undisclosed gifts and income” from Crow, Crow’s affiliated companies, and “other donors.”

In the letter, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) said Thomas, one of the court’s staunchly conservative justices, even may have committed tax fraud and violated other federal laws by “secretly” accepting the gifts and income potentially worth millions.

“The Senate is not a prosecutorial body, and the Supreme Court has no fact-finding function of its own, making the executive role all the more important if there is ever to be any complete determination of the facts,” reads the letter requesting the appointment of a special prosecutor.

“We do not make this request lightly,” said the letter.

The list of potentially secret gifts also includes a loan of more than $267,000 provided by Thomas’ close friend Anthony Welters, the yacht trip to Russia from the Baltics, and the helicopter ride to Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg. ProPublica first reported last year on the existence of extensive undisclosed gifts and lavish trips from Crow.

A list of alleged secret gifts and payment to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Sens. Dick Durban and Ron Wyden
A list of alleged secret gifts and payment to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Sens. Dick Durban and Ron Wyden

Additionally, Justice Thomas is accused of not disclosing tuitions for his grandnephew, free lodging, real estate transactions, and home renovations. The action escalates Democratic senators’ efforts to hold Thomas accountable for perceived ethics controversies.

According to the senators, Thomas’ conduct could violate the Ethics in Government Act, which requires officials like Supreme Court justices to file annual reports disclosing gifts and income accepted from outside sources.

“It is a crime,” reads the report, “To knowingly and willfully fail to file or report such information.”

Since 2023, two Senate committees have been looking into the 1991 loan from Welters that was connected to Thomas’ purchase of a luxury motor home. Welters previously responded to a New York Times request for comment on the loan only to say that it was “satisfied.”

Thomas, for his part, belatedly disclosed some—but not all—gifts from Crow this year and has defended the gifts as “personal hospitality” from some of his and his wife’s “dearest friends.”

“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,” Durban and Wyden wrote.

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