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GOP Defends Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Amid Disclosure Failures

WASHINGTON ― Republicans defended Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday after it was reported that he failed to disclose gifts and a real estate transaction from a billionaire GOP donor.

“Justice Thomas has been attacked and excoriated since his confirmation hearing, and I suspect this is just a continuation of that,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told HuffPost on Monday.

“Ask how many senators have had to do that — ask how many senators have welcomed personal hospitality. I think that would be an interesting story,” Cornyn added.

Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), another member on the panel, said he wasn’t concerned about the gaps in the conservative justice’s disclosure forms.

“It happens all the time,” Kennedy said. “Justices… are entitled to have friends.”

Thomas has come under fire for not reporting over two decades of luxury travel that he and his wife, Ginni Thomas, took with Texas real estate mogul Harlan Crow, including trips on the donor’s yacht and private jet. Thomas has said he and Crow are friends.

Last week, ProPublica revealed that Thomas also failed to disclose a 2014 real estate deal to sell properties in Georgia to the billionaire. Thomas’ mother still lives on one of the properties and doesn’t pay rent. Federal law appears to require any real estate deal to be reported on financial disclosure forms.

Thomas is reportedly planning to amend his financial disclosure forms to include the real estate transaction, according to CNN, in an implicit acknowledgment that he should have reported it in the first place.

“To the extent that this latest real estate transaction wasn’t disclosed, he’ll amend his disclosure statement, which I think is the right thing to do,” Cornyn said Monday.

But the Texas Republican, who once served on the Texas Supreme Court, said he opposed efforts to pass legislation that would require U.S. Supreme Court justices to adopt and follow a code of ethics as well as place additional transparency standards on gifts and travel. The court, he said, is “capable of changing their own” ethics code.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), meanwhile, accused Democrats of racism by singling out Thomas for failing to report financial ties to a Republican billionaire donor, even though there’s no evidence of other Supreme Court justices failing to report such arrangements.

“The left has always had a special derision for Justice Thomas because he’s a Black man who dares to be a conservative,” Cruz said.

Only one GOP senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, told HuffPost on Monday he had concerns about Thomas’ failure to disclose his ties with Crow.

“If the reports are accurate, it stinks,” Romney said. When pressed to elaborate, he added, “I don’t have to explain more than that.”

Democrats have vowed to respond to the Thomas revelations, but their power, in this case, is limited. The Supreme Court polices itself.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a vocal critic of dark money and GOP efforts to install conservative judges on the judiciary, on Monday laughed off Republican attempts to wave away the Thomas controversy.

“They know he’s a billionaire, right?” Whitehouse said of Crow. “They know he’s politically active. They know he’s filed briefs in the Supreme Court. This is a guy who’s interested in the court, and not as a casual observer. So I think that puts the extraordinarily Rococo extravagance of these gifts into a very different category than just wildly generous personal hospitality.”

He added. “There’s a lot more going on when you mix the cocktail of right-wing billionaires, dark money, amenable justices and the law.”