U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is now the subject of both criticism and mockery after releasing a statement in an apparent attempt to tamp down allegations from legal experts he broke the law by not disclosing what are possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, in gifts he received over the course of decades. Those gifts came in the form of lavish luxury vacations aboard private planes and private yachts traveling to private resorts, from one influential GOP megadonor and right-wing activist who, according to one U.S. Senator, “has many interests before the Supreme Court.”
Justice Thomas on Friday said, “Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable. I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”
A bombshell ProPublica report published Thursday revealed that for over two decades, almost if not every year, Thomas and his wife – the far-right wing activist, lobbyist, and conspiracy theorist Ginni Thomas – were the guests of Harlan Crow, a Republican billionaire real estate magnate who invited them on trips with him and other conservatives, apparently at times the top legal activist at the Federalist Society who is responsible for most of not all of Donald Trump’s federal court picks, including his three Supreme Court nominees.
One trip ProPublica described allegedly would have cost the Thomas’ $500,000 had they paid for it themselves. But all these trips, all these luxury vacations, were all-expenses-paid. Over more than two dozen years, given the trips ProPublica described, it’s difficult to imagine the total cost isn’t well into the millions of dollars.
Justice Thomas insists he did nothing wrong, but promises to follow what are new guidelines in the future.
“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years. As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them,” Justice Thomas said in a statement after massive reporting that caused the already embattled Supreme Court, which is suffering a self-inflicted approval rating that is the lowest in history, took another hit.
Thomas’ assertion that these were merely “family trips” taken with “our dearest friends” does not explain the all-expenses-paid part of the trips, which he suggests is a typical arrangement in America: “As friends do.”
Justice Thomas, who is already under heavy criticism from ordinary Americans and legal experts who believe his wife’s activism and actions, which include attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, required him to have recused from several Supreme Court cases. Many feel his choices have placed a stain on the Supreme Court, which is now taking yet another public opinion beating from those unimpressed with, if not offended by, his defense.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) slammed Justice Thomas – and the news media – even before Thomas’s statement. On Thursday, he tweeted:
“It’s not like Harlan Crow is some apolitical pal of Thomas. He CONSTANTLY has cases before the court. He funds groups that argue for outcomes that benefit him. One group, CCI [Center for the Community Interest], filed 8 briefs before the Court. Thomas sided with Crow in all 8 cases.”
Sen. Murphy pointed to this ThinkProgress article from well over a decade ago, 2011, titled: “Second Harlan Crow Connected Group Has A Perfect Litigation Record Before Justice Thomas.”
Murphy and ThinkProgress effectively destroy Justice Thomas’ claim that these were merely “close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court.” And Sen. Murphy made his allegations one day before Justice Thomas’ statement.
Also Thursday Murphy wrote: “Important for news media to not simply label this guy as a ‘GOP mega donor’. It’s so much worse. Crow has many interests before the Supreme Court. His groups file petitions before the court. It’s the clearest, most brazen violation of judicial ethics you can imagine.”
At the core of Justice Thomas’ defense are two claims. First, that Harlan Crow is a mere close friend who has nothing to do with the Supreme Court. That at the very least is false. And second, when he first checked, he was told by people he does not name – and does not even suggest are experts in government ethics or any relevant field – who told him he did not need to disclose the trips. That’s fallacious.
It would be as if someone did their taxes every year for the past 25 years but relied on the tax laws from 1998, the first year they did their taxes.
ProPublica on Thursday also mentioned this quote from Justice Thomas: “I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There’s something normal to me about it.”
So rather than look to legal experts, NCRM looked to “normal” people to gauge their response to his defense.
On social media, Justice Thomas is being heavily and accurately condemned. Perhaps most importantly, even those who are not legal or government ethics experts are making very accurate criticisms.
“Thomas says he didn’t think he had to reveal his ‘dear friend’ the billionaire’s largesse,” tweeted an account named Pitt Griffin.
“A: Ignorance of the law is no defense. He should speak to someone who knows the law. B: He claims the right to privacy – something he’d deny to ordinary Americans.”
A user by the name of Ty Johnson writes: “Justice Thomas advised by whom give a name of who told you this. Regardless this looks & smells bad for a SCOTUS Justice doing this without disclosing it. The rules you’re under imply a meal or a visit to their homes not an 1/2 million dollar vacation.”
ArmyMPVet says, “Clarence Thomas says he was advised he didn’t have to report the gifts. But says, he will in the future….uh no…Thats not how it works. Ignorance of the law is no excuse….”
An account named Will I am (not the rapper) picked up on Thomas’ claim that he “sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary,” and responds, saying, “He’s pulling a Trump trying to throw previous justices under the bus.”
Free Agent Fly on Some Wall writes, “Man with literal *Supreme Court Justice level* legal knowledge tries ‘Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I was told by people that it was not wrong’ defense.”
And an account named Ray Wilson tweets: “Weak sauce dude. The appearance of impropriety. I’m certain you’ve heard the phrase. You have a lifetime appointment to the highest court in our country. We expect better.”
Image: Photo by Preston Keres/USDA via Flickr
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‘See How Easy That Is to Say?’: GOP Mocked for ‘Weaponization’ of DOJ Claims as Democratic Senator Gets Indicted
The U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed an indictment against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez late Friday morning, accusing the New Jersey Democratic lawmaker of bribery as prosecutors showed photos of gold bars and nearly half-a-million dollars in cash stuffed into a jacket that bears his name and the seal of the U.S. Senate.
Many on the left immediately demanded Senator Menendez resign, a demand he is refusing. He will step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which Senate Democrats require when a chair is criminally charged.
It took little time for liberals to mock Republicans who have been claiming President Joe Biden and Democrats in general, along with the “deep state,” have “weaponized” the Dept. of Justice against conservatives, especially after Donald Trump’s four indictments on a total of 91 criminal felonies.
“Let me get this straight,” wrote journalist and progressive SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah. “To the GOP, when DOJ indicts President Biden’s son and a senior Democratic US Senator that is great. But when DOJ indicts Donald Trump for attempting a coup and for 32 counts of Espionage that is DOJ’s ‘weaponization’ of criminal justice?!”
“This is the second time that Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted for corruption. He needs to resign and allow Gov. Murphy to fill that vacancy with someone who does right by the people of New Jersey,” wrote former Human Rights Campaign press secretary Charlotte Clymer. “See how easy that is to say, GOP?”
Journalist, author, and former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin posted video of the prosecutor announcing the indictment.
US Attorney Damian Williams shows photos of the Mercedes Benz, gold bars, and cash the government alleges Senator Robert Menendez received in bribes. pic.twitter.com/h4hYYwzKVQ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 22, 2023
Boykin later sarcastically commented, “There goes Biden again weaponizing the Justice Department to prosecute political leaders in his own party.”
“President Joe Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice has now indicted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and *checks notes* Joe Biden’s son,” observed veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers.
Attorney and former Republican George Conway quickly responded, saying, “senile sleepy Joe is playing 65-dimensional chess again.”
“Menendez should resign. Today,” demanded historian and author Kevin M. Kruse.
“One of the nice things about rule of law is that truly believing in it ensures that you don’t end up as a partisan hypocrite,” observed The Atlantic’s Brian Klaas, an associate professor in global politics at University College London. “If Menendez is guilty, he should go to prison as anyone else would. (And it would be prudent to resign swiftly).”
Meanwhile, some used Friday’s indictment of Sen. Menendez to focus on other political figures.
Foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, warned, “The Menendez case should have Jared [Kushner] and Clarence [Thomas] ordering extra strength Tums today.”
Rachel Bitecofer, the political strategist and analyst also appeared to point the finger at Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
You know who else hid money from the IRS and ran his bribes through his wife?! pic.twitter.com/kWJuAPCtbJ
— Rachel Bitecofer 📈🔭🇺🇲🇺🇦 (@RachelBitecofer) September 22, 2023
‘Total Breakdown’: House Sends Members Home – Experts Warn ‘Republicans Can’t Govern’ And Have No ‘Working Majority’
Nine days before an increasingly-likely shutdown of the federal government of the United States, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has effectively adjourned the House for the rest of the week, with GOP leadership telling members they may go home and come back next week, after a procedural vote to fund the Dept. of Defense failed for the second time this week.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram reports, “Note that the House has not officially dismissed everyone.. but everyone expects they are done for the week. Why? They House lacks the VOTES TO ADJOURN.”
He later added that “Things are very fluid,” and “there could be votes TOMORROW or this weekend still in the house. This could be a problem if some members already got on flights.”
Fox News online is reporting, “House abruptly cancels votes for the week without spending deal after series of defeats for GOP leaders,” and notes members are not expected back until Tuesday.
McCarthy this week has repeatedly denigrated and attacked the extremist members of the House Republican conference on camera to reporters, and Thursday was no different, saying, “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) blasted House Republicans upon hearing the House was about to adjourn for the week.
“What you need to understand is that chaos is the point for a big chunk of House Republicans. They came to congress to BURN THE GOVERNMENT TO THE GROUND,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote. “Their goal is a shutdown.”
The sentiment is being echoed by political experts, but many of those are placing the blame on Speaker McCarthy.
Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett, senior advisor to former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro Thursday afternoon wrote: “Reminder: Kevin McCarthy could put a clean bill to fund the government on the floor right now and it would pass easily. Instead, he’s sending members home for the weekend with 9 days until a shutdown—all because he’s afraid he’ll lose his job.”
Evidence that the far-right extremist House Republicans, led by U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are effectively in control comes via Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman:
At 1:13 PM ET Sherman posted that Rep. Gaetz had “just emerged from” Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s suite. “Gaetz said that he’s advocating for pausing consideration of the Pentagon spending bill and moving to bills that cut spending. He mentioned: State-Foreign Ops, Agriculture, Energy and Water.”
Sherman noted that Gaetz “said again there are not enough votes” for a continuing resolution, legislation to keep the government open temporarily, possibly 30 days past the September 30 deadline.
“Just to review, the plan right now is to begin passing 11 appropriations bills with relatively open rules allowing for amendments between next tues (possibly wed) and Sunday.”
At 2:40 PM, Sherman added, “This is now the strategy. They’re going to bring up individual approps [appropriations] bills next week, per lawmakers who just met with @SpeakerMcCarthy.”
Others were less pleased.
Veteran foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen wrote: “truly insane. Mccarthy surrendered to Gaetz.”
Even before McCarthy adjourned the House for the rest of the week, political experts had warned the volatile situation was worse than it may have appeared.
Sherman, late Thursday morning, issued this warning on social media after the failed Defense Dept. vote: “Just to put this in context, republicans cannot even agree to debate the pentagon spending bill. This bill usually passes by big margins. It failed twice this week. Kevin mccarthys House Republicans are in a state of crisis.”
Josh Chafetz, Georgetown Law professor of law and politics, responded to Thursday’s failed Defense Dept. procedural vote, writing: “if you can’t pass the procedural stuff you don’t have a working majority.”
Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) is calling the state of the GOP House a “total breakdown.”
“I started working in the House nearly 11 years ago, I’ve seen some crazy days and some chaotic votes but never seen anything like what is happening with this majority. Just a total breakdown,” he wrote Thursday morning.
Professor and American historian Aaron Astor on Thursday asked, “Does the GOP actually have a working majority in the House?”
Veteran journalist John Harwood quickly replied, “clearly not.”
‘Good Riddance’: Experts Blame Rupert Murdoch for ‘Intellectual and Moral Decay’ of America, Issue Warning on Future
Rupert Murdoch‘s announcement he is stepping down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. circulated rapidly Thursday morning, with critics celebrating the exit of the billionaire media mogul some are blaming for the “intellectual and moral decay of our society.”
Murdoch created Fox News, which he launched in October of 1996. His massive empire also includes the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, along with dozens of other media outlets in the U.S. and around the world.
“I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News,” his letter, addressed to “Dear Colleagues,” reads. One of his sons, Lachlan Murdoch, “will become sole Chairman of both companies.”
“My father firmly believed in freedom,” Murdoch adds, “and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,” he claimed.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake was among the many who pointed to Murdoch’s “elites” remark.
“Murdoch in his letter: ‘Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,'” Blake writes, before pointing to court documents from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit Fox News settled for $787 million. “Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world [Donald Trump] by telling the truth.”
Murdoch in his letter: “Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”
Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world by telling the truth. pic.twitter.com/yd980z5qkG
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 21, 2023
Author, editor, and professor of international relations, Nicholas Grossman, also focused on Murdoch’s “elites” remark.
“Rupert Murdoch’s parents had the titles of Sir and Dame. He’s a multi-billionaire, and very influential, owning prominent news outlets in the US, UK, and Australia. The notion that Murdoch, of all people, is not elite, and not in cahoots with media, is ridiculous, absurd, insane.”
Although Murdoch’s move is not effective until the shareholders’ meeting in November, his announcement comes just one day after a Vanity Fair interview with author Michael Wolff: “Murdoch Chronicler Michael Wolff Foresees the Fall of Fox News: ‘It Will Cease to Exist in Its Present Form.'”
“Now, with The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, Wolff has directed his poison pen back to a topic that helped make his name,” Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo writes.
Wolff’s focus is on what happens to Fox News after the 92-year old Rupert Murdoch dies, and how his more liberal son James might impact the media empire.
“I think it will cease to exist in its present form,” after Murdoch’s death said Wolff. “I think it will go into a radical transition in which, either James Murdoch will take over and change it into something else, or they will sell it. Fox has existed in its present state just for one reason: It’s controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who is the one man who can stand up, or has been able to stand up, to the political and social opprobrium at a fierce, fierce level, and to do this for the sake of making enormous amounts of money. But when he departs, that changes very clearly and very quickly.”
Wolff added he thinks the “logical” decision will be to sell off Fox News.
“I think it’s more logical, at any rate, to sell the whole damn thing. And I think the position that cable television news is not going to get more valuable, it’s only going to get less valuable, is persuasive.”
Wolff Thursday morning reposted this photo:
Michael Wolff at his book launch explaining that the end of the Murdoch era will come sooner rather than later about 13 hours before Murdoch announces his retirement. Not bad. https://t.co/Eon2eRFR1U pic.twitter.com/1wSFEiVCFy
— thomas beller (@thomasbeller) September 21, 2023
Political and journalism experts, like foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, on Thursday cheered the Murdoch news and denounced his reign.
“On this happy day on which Rupert Murdoch has announced his retirement, let us reflect on the fact that no single individual has done more damage to Western democracy or more for the intellectual and moral decay of our society during the past half century than Rupert. Good riddance,” wrote Rothkopf.
“I believe one could accurately argue that Rupert Murdoch did more to corrode American democracy and fuel division than any other individual in modern history,” wrote veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers. “His departure from Fox News leaves a wake of public distrust, violence, and a nation in a cold civil war.”
Author and former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob adds, “Millions of Americans are more ignorant and less loyal to our democracy because they got their’news’ from Rupert Murdoch.”
MSNBC’s Medhi Hassan wrote: “As Rupert Murdoch announces his ‘retirement’, a reminder that some of the worst things we have had to experience in recent years – the Iraq war, the rise of Trump, the Big Election Lie – are all thanks to him and to Fox.”
Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone served up this warning:
“Lachlan Murdoch is worse than Rupert Murdoch, so you’ll basically just get a more malevolent version of Fox that will also be even more chaotic since Lachlan is both a less competent leader and Fox is facing an especially turbulent period that Lachlan has no idea how to navigate.”
With an eye to the future, veteran journalist Kara Swisher offered this on Lachlan Murdoch: “Prediction: It will be a short reign of the crown prince — after the old man goes, the other siblings will have the con and it will all be sold off (Elon? Right leaning PE firm or media org?).”
Media Matters’ Madeline Peltz also glimpsed into what the future might look like under Lachlan’s leadership.
“Lachlan Murdoch is now the sole chairman of his family’s media empire. He is a dangerous ideologue who unwaveringly backed Tucker Carlson’s white supremacy on the network,” Peltz said, referring to the now-former top Fox News host. She added: “Murdoch was the number one champion of Tucker Carlson, even as he cost Fox News millions in ad revenue and spread dangerous extremism that inspired acts of right-wing terrorism around the world.”
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