Clarence Thomas Took Free Trip to Putin’s Hometown, Democrats Say

Buried deep in a letter Democratic senators sent to Attorney General Merrick Garland requesting a special prosecutor to investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s potential federal ethics and tax violations is something shocking: Democrats claim that the Supreme Court justice accepted a 2003 yacht trip to Russia and a helicopter flight to Yusupov Palace in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown—both paid for by Republican billionaire donor Harlan Crow.

Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Federal Courts, and Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, issued a letter to Garland just before Congress took a break for the Fourth of July wherein they detailed several “likely undisclosed gifts” alleged to have been given to Thomas over the years from Crow and “affiliated companies.” Among those gifts are a 2003 yacht trip to “Russia and the Baltics” and a “helicopter ride to Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg.”

The site of Rasputin’s assassination by monarchists in 1916, Yusupov Palace is in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hometown of St. Petersburg. Putin has held and attended events at Yusupov Palace over the years, meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in 2002 and attending the birthday party of Germany’s former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2014.

The trip and flight were first reported by ProPublica in May 2023 and buried among a slew of other undisclosed gifts. While it’s unclear whether Thomas met with Putin during his 2003 visit to Yusupov Palace, Whitehouse and Wyden’s letter to Garland paints a dizzying picture of years of luxurious trips and gifts showered on Thomas that were not disclosed, begging further questions.

“The scale of the potential ethics violations by Justice Thomas, and the willful pattern of disregard for ethics laws, exceeds the conduct of other government officials investigated by the Department of Justice for similar violations,” the letter, dated July 3, reads. “The breadth of the omissions uncovered to date, and the serious possibility of additional tax fraud and false statement violations by Justice Thomas and his associates, warrant the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate this misconduct.”

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Kim browne

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