Ocasio-Cortez introduces impeachment articles against Supreme Court’s Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito

Washington — Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York introduced articles of impeachment against Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito on Wednesday, ramping up Democrats’ disapproval of the high court in the wake of ethics issues and a spate of major decisions at the close of its latest term.

It is all but certain that the resolutions will die in the Republican-controlled House, where GOP lawmakers have accused Democrats of mounting a campaign to undermine the court’s legitimacy in response to rulings on abortion, guns and presidential power they dislike. Still, the move by Ocasio-Cortez escalates Democrats’ scrutiny of the high court’s conservative justices, who hold six of the nine seats. The Supreme Court did not immediately return a request for comment.

The resolution filed against Thomas claims he engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by failing to report travel accommodations and tuition for his grandnephew provided by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, as well as free rent and home improvements related to a 2014 real estate transaction between the justice and Crow.

The measure, which contains three articles of impeachment, accuses Thomas of undermining the “impartiality and integrity” of the high court by failing to include the trips on his annual financial disclosure reports.

Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution also seeks to punish Thomas for refusing to recuse himself from cases involving the 2020 presidential election because of the activities of his wife, Ginni Thomas. Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist, corresponded with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows about efforts to overturn the election results. She testified in 2022 that she did not discuss the legal challenges involving the election with her husband.

Still, the impeachment resolution claims that Thomas “betrayed his judicial oath” by violating federal ethics law.

“Given the court’s demonstrated inability to preserve its own legitimate conduct, it is incumbent upon Congress to contain the threat this poses to our democracy and the hundreds of millions of Americans harmed by the crisis of corruption unfurling within the court. Congress has a legal, moral, and democratic obligation to impeach,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement.

Thomas and Crow have been friends for more than two decades, and the justice didn’t believe he was required to report the trips with Crow under rules regarding personal hospitality, he said last year. Thomas pledged to comply with new disclosure guidelines from the Judicial Conference issued last March, and he included travel on Crow’s private jet, as well as lodging at an Adirondacks property, on his 2022 disclosure. That report also listed the 2014 real estate transaction.

Thomas also reported two trips he took with Crow in 2019 to Bali, Indonesia, and Monte Rio, California, on his latest disclosure form filed in May. Democrats, though, have accused the conservative justice of omitting other gifts and income from federal forms.

The impeachment resolution targeting Alito, which contains two articles, stems in part from flags that were displayed outside his Virginia residence and New Jersey vacation home in recent years. The first, an upside-down American flag, was flown outside Alito’s Virginia house in January 2021, and the second, an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, was displayed outside his New Jersey residence in the summer of 2023.

Both types of flags were carried by rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, but Alito has said he was not involved in the displays outside his homes. Instead, the justice told congressional Democrats in May that his wife flew the two flags, and neither of them knew of the meanings that have been ascribed to them in recent years.

But Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution claims that the flying of the flags showed a “lack of impartiality” by Alito and required his recusal from cases before the Supreme Court involving former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol.

Alito had rebuffed calls to step aside from those cases, telling Democrats that a “reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal.”

The impeachment resolution also accuses Alito of failing to disclose trips funded by unnamed individuals with interests before the Supreme Court and declining to step aside from hearing cases affecting a benefactor’s business interests.

Ocasio-Cortez’s resolution does not name the individuals, but a June 2023 ProPublica report revealed Alito flew aboard a private jet for a vacation at a luxury fishing lodge in Alaska in July 2008. The jet was provided by billionaire Paul Singer, whose hedge fund and related entities had sought the Supreme Court’s intervention in past disputes.

Thomas’ travel with Crow ramped up pressure on the Supreme Court by Congress to unilaterally enact a code of conduct, which it did in November. The Senate Judiciary Committee has been investigating the ethics practices at the nation’s highest court and is expected to release a report with its findings this summer.

In addition to the ethics concerns, Democrats have also denounced a number of high-profile rulings by its conservative majority. The Supreme Court last week found that a former president is entitled to immunity from federal prosecution for official acts, a decision with significant ramifications for the criminal charges against Trump. He has pleaded not guilty.

The high court also invalidated a federal ban on bump stocks and reversed a 40-year-old decision that gave federal agencies broad regulatory power, curtailing their authority.

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