Revelations about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s financial disclosures get “worse and worse by the day,” Sen. Dick Durbin said Sunday, and “everything is on the table” when it comes to establishing a code of ethics for the high court.
Speaking Sunday morning on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper, the Illinois Democrat, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said “We need to change the image of this court. At this point, it’s at the lowest ebb in history.”
““This tangled web around Justice Clarence Thomas just gets worse and worse by the day.””
Thomas has been the subject of numerous reports in recent weeks for not disclosing luxury trips, property sales and tuition from a major Republican donor. Last week, the Washington Post reported that a conservative activist funnelled tens of thousands of dollars to Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, specifying that her name be kept off the paperwork. Thomas has claimed he was not required to disclose some of those benefits.
Democratic lawmakers, including Durbin, have called on Chief Justice John Roberts to probe Thomas’s dealings to “restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards.” Last week, Roberts declined a request from Democratic senators to testify on the court’s ethical standards.
On Sunday, Durbin said the reports have raised troubling questions.
“This tangled web around Justice Clarence Thomas just gets worse and worse by the day,” he said, according to a CNN transcript. “You shouldn’t have that sort of thing happening at the highest court in America. It just destroys the integrity of the court.”
Durbin said it’s not a partisan issue, in reference to a report last week that Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Neil Gorsuch did not recuse themselves from separate cases involving their book publisher, and put the onus on Roberts to act.
“It just embarrasses me,” Durbin said. “The question is whether it embarrasses the Supreme Court and the chief justice… This is the Roberts court, and history is going to judge him by the decision he makes on this. He has the power to make the difference.”
While Durbin had previously indicated it is unlikely Congress will impose ethics rules for the Supreme Court, he left the possibility open Sunday.
“The bottom line is this,” Durbin said. “Everything is on the table. Day after day, week after week, more and more disclosures about Justice Thomas, we cannot ignore them. The thing we’re going to do first, obviously, is to gather the evidence, the information that we need to draw our conclusions. I’m not ruling out anything.”