Justice Thomas Defends Against Allegations of Improper Gifts and Travel

WASHINGTON — Justice Clarence Thomas defended himself on Friday from allegations that he had accepted lavish gifts and travel from a wealthy conservative donor without proper disclosure.

In a statement released by the Supreme Court, the justice said that he had followed guidance from others at the court and that he believed he was not required to report the trips.

“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,” Justice Thomas said. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”

The justice’s statement comes after ProPublica revealed that he had traveled by private jet and yacht at the invitation of Harlan Crow, a real estate billionaire. The vacations, which took place over nearly two decades, included trips to Indonesia and to Bohemian Grove, an exclusive retreat nestled in the redwoods in Northern California.

Last month, the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking body for the federal courts, adopted tighter rules requiring the justices to disclose travel by private jet and stays in commercial properties like resorts.

In his statement, Justice Thomas said he would comply with the new guidelines.

The vacations are at odds with the justice’s public portrayal of himself as a man of the people.

“I prefer the R.V. parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There’s something normal to me about it,” Justice Thomas said in a documentary about his life. “I come from regular stock, and I prefer that — I prefer being around that.”

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