Thomas is a tourist for a reason. Chief Referee’s Jet Gate

Clarence Thomas, the second African-American justice in the history of the American Supreme Court and a bastion of the most outspoken legal conservatism, finally admitted in recent days that he had enjoyed three vacations paid for by the very wealthy Texas real estate developer Harlan Crow. , a major financier of the Republican Party.

From one point of view it is offensive, from another it is a relief.

This is unfortunate because the long silence of one of the nine high priests of American law regarding the costly services rendered to him casts a shadow over the entire Court, already highly politically controversial due to its right-wing composition and some ultra-conservative views. choice. But above all, recognition makes the figure of Thomas more opaque, in some ways the most interesting and unusual in the panorama of American conservatism. Born into a very poor African-American family, abandoned by his father and raised with Prussian strictness by his maternal grandfather, after his teenage years of study (graduated from Harvard in law, but also in English literature, to free himself from the legacy of a culturally unhappy childhood and the study of a Creole dialect as a first language) began to participate in the political life of the left. Then a conservative shock under the wing of John Danforth, first Missouri’s attorney general and then a Republican senator. These are the years when Thomas changes his mind about the policy of ethnic equal opportunity and becomes convinced that the degree of a black person entering a prestigious university through a reserved passage will never be taken seriously. Hence skepticism about political actions to promote minorities, which will weaken individual motivation rather than making society more fair and balanced. Positions that would slide into a very clear-cut legal traditionalism when he arrived at the Supreme Court in 1991, outlined by Bush Jr. and confirmed by the Senate with the narrowest vote in two centuries in appointing one of the new sages, the majority From 52 to 48 it is the same effectively demonstrates how the sexual harassment allegations leveled against him in those days by his former aide Anita Hill damaged his approval rating even among Upper House Republicans.

But if acknowledging favors from a wealthy Texan thus undermines the authoritative and unusual image of a self-made man, it is also a relief as embarrassing revelations about the judge have been dripping for more than a year. created a difficult atmosphere with open letters from lawyers who collaborated with him and had a hand in the fire of his honesty, as well as increasingly informative scoops from journalists, in particular from Pro Publica, which make him a figure of an impartial person. and the impeccable judge is increasingly controversial. The hope now is that Thomas will speak a general word of truth about all the benefits he has silently received in recent years, and, above all, that the Court will unanimously dictate a clear and inflexible code of conduct for its members, allowing President John Roberts to achieve the goal of ethics and transparency. which had so far eluded him.

The problem is that the trips allowed by Clarence (a three-time non-paying passenger on Crowe’s private jets, including a vacation with his wife to a property developer’s villa in New York state) make up only a minimal portion of those counted. from the press.

An investigation by Brett Murphy and Alex Mirjeski for ProPublica, reported Aug. 10 by historian Heather Cox Richardson in her daily newsletter, Letters from an American (highly recommended for those who want a more accurate understanding of current political events in the United States). ), is counting on “at least 38 vacation destinations, including a previously undisclosed yacht trip around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights plus another eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and collegiate sporting events; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; a permanent invitation to a super-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.” Not only that: On May 4, Richardson reported on another ProPublica investigation, signed by Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott and Alex Mirjeski, that explained how Crow paid $150,000 for the school tuition of one of Thomas’ nephews.

The episode, reconstructed in the Washington Post by Emma Brown, Sean Boburg and Jonathan O’Connell, goes back much further: in 2012, Republican activist Leonard Leo forced the Judicial Education Project association (for which he was a consultant) to pay tens of thousands of dollars. Ginny Thomas, the judge’s wife, with a recommendation that the woman’s name not be included in the accounting records. Around the same time, the Judicial Education Project filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, where Thomas sits.

This isn’t the only time Mrs Thomas has been in the news. In March 2022, media outlets reported a flurry of messages that a woman sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in 2020, after the presidential election won by Biden and before Trump’s attack on Congress, pleading with him to take action to repeal the law. vote result: “Save us from the destruction of America by the left.” And three months later, in June 2022, it was revealed that he had pressured 29 Arizona legislators to overturn the election results by identifying voters who, regardless of the election result, would vote for President Trump rather than Biden.

Enough to make the figure of Thomas even more opaque, but far from enough to think about eliminating him. To send one of the nine justices, you need a House indictment and a two-thirds majority in the Senate to support it. It is no coincidence that precedents are rare: the only senior judge to be impeached was Samuel Chase in 1804, and the procedure ended in acquittal in the Senate the following year.

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