Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) on Tuesday defended the Supreme Court from Democrats’ calls to pass judicial ethics legislation or even conduct an impeachment inquiry after reports that Justice Clarence Thomas received gifts and hospitality from a billionaire.
“The Supreme Court and the court system is a whole separate part of our Constitution, and the Democrats, it seems to me, spend a lot of time criticizing individual members of the court and going after the court as an institution,” McConnell told reporters at his first leadership press conference in the Capitol since suffering a concussion on March 8.
McConnell accused Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of threatening conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh at an abortion rights rally outside the Supreme Court in 2020, when the Democratic leader warned they “won’t know what hit” them if they overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case.
“My counterpart went over in front of the Supreme Court and called out two of the Supreme Court justices by name and actually threatened them with some kind of reprisal — I don’t know what kind — if they ruled the wrong way in a case he cared about,” he said.
McConnell also asserted that Attorney General Merrick Garland “seemed to be largely unconcerned with security issues around the homes of Supreme Court members” after a draft opinion of the court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe, leaked in May.
The GOP leader said he has “total confidence” in Chief Justice John Roberts to handle any ethical issues facing the court.
“I have total confidence in the chief justice of the United States to deal with these court internal issues,” he said.
His comments came in reaction to a recent letter Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee sent to Roberts raising concerns about reporting by ProPublica that Thomas accepted luxury trips regularly from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow without disclosing the gifts.
ProPublica also reported that one of Crow’s companies bought a property in which Thomas owned a one-third share, which Thomas also failed to disclose.
Senate Democrats informed Roberts that they will hold a hearing on “the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards” and urged the chief justice to investigate the matter.
“And if the court does not resolve these issues on its own, the committee will consider legislation to resolve it,” they wrote.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in a CNN interview over the weekend suggested the House should conduct an impeachment inquiry into Thomas, telling CNN’s Dana Bash it is “the House’s responsibility to pursue that investigation in the form of impeachment.”