Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday brushed off potential congressional action in response to a bombshell report that Justice Clarence Thomas for decades received undisclosed gifts and trips from a GOP donor, saying he has “total confidence” in the chief justice to deal with what he said were internal issues.
“The Supreme Court and the court system is a whole separate part of our Constitution,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters Tuesday. “The Democrats, it seems to me, spend a lot of time criticizing individual members of the court and going after the court as an institution.”
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The comments come as Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are eyeing a hearing on Supreme Court ethics in the aftermath of the reports detailing Thomas’ conduct, which included accepting gifts from Harlan Crow, a conservative businessman, like flights on his private jet, a vacation on his yacht and stays at his properties.
Last week, Democrats on the committee wrote a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts urging him to investigate Thomas’ conduct.
“The report describes conduct by a sitting Justice that he did not disclose to the public and that is plainly inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any person in a position of public trust,” the Democrats, led by committee Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois, wrote, while urging Roberts to open an investigation and “take all needed action to prevent further misconduct.”
The development comes as Thomas, who is currently the longest serving justice on the high court, has been under fire in recent months for refusing to recuse himself from cases related to political issues that his wife, Ginni Thomas, has been involved with – like former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, trust in the high court reached a historic low last year in the aftermath of the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, contrary to broad public opinion, which was also marked by a leaked draft opinion months earlier suggesting that the right to an abortion would be gutted.
The Democrats said that the committee will consider legislation to restore confidence in the high court’s ethical standards if Roberts does not resolve the issue, while urging him to undertake an investigation into Thomas’ conduct. Meanwhile, Republicans have largely shrugged off the reports, while urging that any concern over Thomas’ conduct should be handled internally.