MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell blasted Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for “clearly and sharply” violating federal law after not disclosing a real estate sale to billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow.
According to ProPublica, Thomas failed to disclose a sale made to Crow in 2014 valued at $133,363, which involved a string of properties in Savannah, Georgia, owned by Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother. The report notes that Thomas’ mother is still living in one of the properties owned by Crow. Following the purchase, Crow reportedly hired contractors to make tens of thousands of dollars of improvements on the home.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has called on the Judicial Conference to refer Thomas to the the U.S. attorney aeneral for potential violations of the Ethics in Government Act under 5 U.S.C. 13106. The law requires Supreme Court justices and other federal employees to report any real estate transaction which exceeds $1,000 in real property, other than property used solely as a personal residence of the reporting individual. Whitehouse also reupped his call for the chief justice of the United States to launch an ethics investigation into Justice Thomas’s financial relationship with Crow.
“The only thing Clarence Thomas had to do to make the entirety of this transaction completely legal in every way for a Supreme Court justice was to simply tell us about it, admit it on his financial disclosure form,” O’Donnell said. “But Clarence Thomas appears to believe that his financial relationship to billionaire Harlan Crow is publicly indefensible.”
O’Donnell emphasized that the violation of federal law by a Supreme Court justice has never happened before in the history of the United States.
Crow told ProPublica in a statement that he purchased Thomas’ mother’s house to preserve if for posterity and that they were bought “at market rate based on many factors including the size, quality, and livability of the dwellings.”
“My intention is to one day create a public museum at the Thomas home dedicated to telling the story of our nation’s second black Supreme Court justice,” Crow said. “I approached the Thomas family about my desire to maintain this historic site so future generations could learn about the inspiring life of one of our greatest Americans.”
The statement did not address why he bought two other vacant lots from Thomas, but Crow noted that they were “later sold to a vetted builder who was committed to improving the quality of the neighborhood and preserving its historical integrity.”
Watch O’Donnell’s full segment in the video above.