It’s being called “the biggest legitimacy crisis in the modern history of the Supreme Court.” Thursday’s bombshell report from ProPublica, its third investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his billionaire benefactor, reveals GOP mega donor Harlan Crow paid the private school tuition – up to $150,000 – for Thomas’ legal ward, his grandnephew who lived with the Thomas’ from the age of six.
Legal and political experts, including two Democratic U.S. Senators, have weighed in. Some are calling it corruption.
It’s not possible to ignore Justice Thomas’ possibly unlawful refusal to disclose at least some of the expensive gifts he received from Harlan Crow. Legal and ethics experts, ProPublica has reported, make clear that, not disclosing the travel portions of the vacations “appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts.”
Others will say given the magnitude of the gifts – luxury vacations, lodging, food, clothing, not to mention the purchase of his mother’s house as she continues to live in it rent free, and now the expensive private boarding school tuition – Justice Thomas, a public servant, had an ethical obligation to disclose the gifts.
On the right, Justice Thomas is being staunchly defended.
Political scientist Norman Ornstein, an emeritus scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and a contributing editor for the Atlantic lamented, “Clarence Thomas could shoot somebody in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and Lindsey Graham, John Kennedy, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and all the rest of them would still support him.”
The reference, of course, is to then-candidate Donald Trump’s braggadocios 2016 remark, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Seven-plus years later, as he has yet to be charged for his role in the insurrection, his role in attempts to overturn the 2020 election that he lost, his retention and refusal to return hundreds of documents with classified markings removed from the White House and stored on his Mar-a-Lago residence, seems to be more true than many Americans would have believed – or care to admit.
Ornstein appears to be correct, at least in a general sense.
On Tuesday, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Supreme Court ethics – which Chief Justice John Roberts declined to attend despite a personal invitation from chairman Dick Durbin – Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), “accused Democrats of an effort to ‘cherry-pick’ examples of travel and gifts to undermine conservative justices,” and, in “an unseemly effort” to “delegitimize the Roberts court,” as The New York Times reported.
U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), also during Tuesday’s hearing, blasted Democrats and their “thuggish shakedown,” for, apparently, wanting to not have any corruption on the nation’s highest court. He claims that the investigations revealing Thomas’ corruption are just cover for Democrats’ disagreement with his rulings.
“The radical left’s continued attacks on Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni over the last 31 and a half years are part of a sustained, hateful attempt to discredit an honest man,” declared Senator Lee – ignoring the mountains of evidence of apparent corruption and his possibly unlawful refusal to disclose expensive gifts.
Calling Thomas a “principled jurist,” “one of our greatest American success stories,” “a humble citizen who rose from poverty in the segregated south,” and “one of the most influential jurists our country has ever known,” Lee says, “those leading the charge against Justice Thomas would have us believe that he simply couldn’t think for himself that he can’t think for himself and so his wife and his wife, his wife, friends must tell him what to think. And the truth is the left simply disagrees with his decisions.”
Lee goes on to claim that Democrats “obviously can’t persuade the American people to adopt their radical policies through legislation. So they’re attempting to destroy the court’s credibility and intimidate the Republican-appointed justices and their families.”
“Starting with Justice Thomas, you’re making clear that justices who disagree with them will pay a price. It’s a price that the radical left is determined to ensure is very high. This is all just a thuggish shakedown. ‘Nice Supreme Court you’ve got there, America, sure would be a shame if something happened to it.'”
.@SenMikeLee slams Democrats for their hostilities against “one of our greatest American success stories, that of a humble citizen who rose from poverty in the segregated south to become…one of the most influential jurists our country has ever known,” Justice Clarence Thomas. pic.twitter.com/YPDBEXCxPU
— The Article III Project (A3P) (@Article3Project) May 2, 2023
Sen. Lee, then went back to Twitter and blasted the Democrats again: “When this chapter of American history is written, those who attack Justice Thomas today will be justly dismissed as intolerant bigots. To my liberal friends I sincerely ask: do you really want to join that club?”
How bad was Lee’s tweet? Conservative Charlie Sykes of The Bulwark accused the Utah Republican of playing the “race card.”
Then there’s Ann Coulter.
Defending the far-right jurist, she writes on Thursday: “Having failed to destroy Clarence Thomas 32 years ago with preposterous sexual harassment charges (disbelieved at the time by 60% of Americans), now the left is resorting to attacking the ethics of a man vastly more honorable than the collection of degenerates reviling him.”
Those “degenerates” apparently are Democrats.
“The sole purpose of the media’s sudden fixation on the Supreme Court’s ‘ethics’ is to morally intimidate conservative justices by reminding them that the left controls the culture.”
Stop and take a look at that.
There is now a great deal of documented evidence of unethical and possibly unlawful corruption swirling around Justice Thomas, which Coulter refers to as “ethics” in scare quotes.
Coulter, who has a law degree, clearly knows what she’s doing, and yet is doing it anyway.
Others on the right are also defending Justice Thomas, perhaps none as adamantly as attorney Mark Paoletta, who served as Donald Trump’s general counsel in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), represented Ginni Thomas with the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, and, as he declares, is a friend of Justice Thomas.
“This story is another attempt to manufacture a scandal about Justice Thomas,” Paoletta writes on Twitter in a lengthy defense of Clarence and Ginni Thomas. “But let’s be clear about what is supposedly scandalous now: Justice Thomas and his wife devoted twelve years of their lives to taking in and caring for a beloved child—who was not their own—just as Justice Thomas’s grandparents had done for him. They made many personal and financial sacrifices to do this. And along the way, their friends joined them in doing everything possible to give this child a future.”
“Harlan Crow’s tuition payments made directly to these schools on behalf of Justice Thomas’s great nephew did not constitute a reportable gift,” Paoletta says, a claim some have supported from a legal standpoint, while others disagree. “Justice Thomas was not required to disclose the tuition payments made directly to Randolph Macon and the Georgia school on behalf of his great nephew because the definition of a ‘dependent child’ under the Ethics in Government Act (5 U.S.C. 13101 (2)) does not include a ‘great nephew.’ It is limited to a ‘son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter.’ Justice Thomas never asked Harlan Crow to pay for his great nephew’s tuition. And neither Harlan Crow, nor his company, had any business before the Supreme Court.”
What Paolettta neglects to mention are the ethical expectations of being a public servant, especially of being a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, all of whom should be above reproach and avoid even the possibility of appearance of impropriety.
“This malicious story shows nothing except for the fact that the Thomases and the Crows are kind, generous, and loving people who tried to help this young man,” Paoletta claims.
That’s not in contention.
No one is accusing Justice Thomas of not being a loving person or who “tried to help this young man.” Those who are angered and outraged are angered and outraged because Justice Thomas didn’t feel the American people deserved to know that a billionaire GOP megadonor yet again is funding Thomas’ lifestyle, and Thomas is not telling America the facts.
As to Paoletta’s claim Harlan Crow had no business before the Supreme Court, a Bloomberg News article from last month disagrees.
Responding to Paoletta’s lengthy tweet, former Wall Street Journal managing editor Bill Grueskin, now a Columbia Journalism School professor, notes, “the reason you send ‘tuition payments directly to the school’ is so it doesn’t trigger a tax liability for the child or his relatives.”
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‘I’m Broke’: One Day Before Shutdown and With No Plan McCarthy Says He Has ‘Nothing’ in His ‘Back Pocket’
Just 30 hours before his own Republican conference likely will have succeeded in shutting down the federal government of the United States, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy candidly admitted to reporters he’s run out of ideas.
Earlier Friday in an “embarrassing failure,” 21 House Republicans killed legislation from their own party, a short-term continuing resolution, that would have kept the federal government open.
Later on Friday afternoon, swarmed by reporters, McCarthy was asked if he was going to tell them what his plans are. He sarcastically replied, “No, I’m going to keep it all a secret.”
When pressed, he said he would “keep working, and make sure we solve this problem.”
“What’s in your back pocket, Speaker?” another reporter asked, pressing him for an answer.
“Nothing right now. I’m broke,” he admitted, apparently referring to options and ideas to avoid a shutdown.
But another reporter asked Speaker McCarthy the main question: Would he partner with House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to put the Senate’s bill before the House.
He refused to answer.
After Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) failed House vote to keep the federal government open…
Reporter: “What’s in your back pocket, Speaker?”
McCarthy: “Nothing right now. I’m broke.” pic.twitter.com/pB2SWhOSVr
— The Recount (@therecount) September 29, 2023
Just before 5 PM CNN’s Manu Raju reported on the ongoing House Republicans’ closed-door meeting with the Speaker, a meeting where the 21 Republicans who will likely be effectively responsible for the shutdown reportedly did not attend.
“McCarthy is telling [Republicans] now there aren’t many options to avoid a shutdown, according to sources in room. He says they can approve GOP’s stop-gap plan that failed, accept Senate plan, put a ‘clean’ stop-gap on floor to dare Democrats to block it — or shut down the government.”
He adds, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) largely responsible for the impending likely shutdown and the impending possible ouster of McCarthy said: “We will not pass a continuing resolution on terms that continue America’s decline.”
At midnight Saturday Republicans will likely have succeeded in furloughing 3.5 million million federal workers – two million of them service members in the U.S. Armed Forces – and countless contractors, while financially harming untold thousands of businesses that rely on income from all those workers to keep running – unless Speaker McCarthy puts a bipartisan continuing resolution approved by at least 75 U.S. Senators on the floor, legislation every House Democrat is likely to vote for.
Should he do so, many believe he will have also signed his own pink slip.
But whether or not the government shuts down, and whether or not McCarthy puts the Senate’s CR on the floor, according to The Washington Post the far right extremists in his party are already moving to oust him “as early as next week.”
The Biden campaign is making certain Americans realize the blame for the impending shutdown sits at McCarthy’s feet.
Here is Kevin McCarthy a few months ago praising the deal he made with President Biden to avert a government shutdown, which he is now reneging on pic.twitter.com/B4rVNzNXkZ
— Biden-Harris HQ (@BidenHQ) September 29, 2023
At 6:23 PM Friday evening, Punchbowl News’ Jake Sherman wrote on social media: “HOUSE REPUBLICANS HAVE NO PLAN TO KEEP GOVERNMENT OPEN.”
Watch the videos above or at this link.
‘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.”
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