Senate calls on supreme court chief justice to investigate Clarence Thomas’s ‘gift’ trips – as it happened

Last modified: 10: 11 PM GMT+0

Judiciary committee will review supreme court justice’s undeclared luxury travel with Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow

Closing summary

Kari Paul here, signing off for the day. Here is the news you need to know from today:

  • America’s gun violence epidemic continues, with five people killed in a mass shooting at a bank building in Louisville, Kentucky this morning.

  • Tennessee Republicans have managed to oust from the state House of Representatives two Black Democratic lawmakers who staged a noisy protest in favor of gun control after a mass shooting in Nashville. One was reappointed back to his seat in a vote today.

  • Joe Biden will run for re-election, but plans to make a formal announcement in the future, he said in a surprising, offhand remark at the annual White House Easter egg roll.

  • Donald Trump is suing to stop his former vice-president Mike Pence from talking to a grand jury investigating the January 6 insurrection.

  • Nancy Mace, a Republican lawmaker in the US House of Representatives, says the Biden administration should ignore a conservative federal judge’s ruling suspending the certification of one of the drugs used in medication abortion.

  • However the White House says it has no intention of ignoring the ruling, but the justice department has appealed it.

  • Fallout continues after a ProPublica report revealed supreme court chief justice Clarence Thomas accepted a number of luxury gifts from a Republican donor – Senate Democrats have promised to hold a hearing on and demand investigation into whether Thomas broke disclosure rules, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants him impeached

Expelled representative Justin Jones reinstated to the Tennessee House of Representatives in unanimous vote

In a vote of 36-0 the Metro Nashville council voted to reinstate Justin Jones to the Tennessee house of representatives following his removal over gun control demonstrations.

Nashville Council votes to reinstate Justin Jones 36-0

— Acyn (@Acyn) April 10, 2023

Jones was one of two Democratic lawmakers expelled from Tennessee’s GOP-dominated house of representatives in retaliation for their role in a gun control demonstration after killings at a Nashville elementary school.

Expelling members of state legislature is rare and generally reserved as a punishment for lawmakers accused of serious misconduct. Both expelled representatives are Black, and Jones condemned the action as “openly racist”.

The banishment resulted in thousands flocking to the state capitol to protest and a public condemnation from president Joe Biden, who called the expulsions “shocking, undemocratic and without precedent”.

“Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting,” he wrote. “And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action.”

There has not yet been a vote on Justin Pearson, the other representative expelled over the protest.


Senate calls for investigation of Clarence Thomas

More details are emerging about the Senate judiciary committee’s calls to investigate supreme court justice Clarence Thomas over potential violations of donor disclosure rules.

Democratic senators on Monday urged US chief justice John Roberts to investigate luxury trips Thomas took that were paid for by a Republican donor – conduct they deemed inconsistent with ethical standards for “any person in a position of public trust”.

The full letter is here:

All Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate a report last week that detailed how Justice Clarence Thomas accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury trips from a Dallas-based GOP donor that weren't reported.

— Laura Litvan (@LauraLitvan) April 10, 2023

Chairman Richard Durbin and the panel’s 10 other Democratic members wrote in a letter to Roberts that the committee will hold a hearing in the coming days focusing on “the need to restore confidence in the supreme court’s ethical standards”.

“And if the court does not resolve this issue on its own, the committee will consider legislation to resolve it”, they wrote. “But you do not need to wait for Congress to act to undertake your own investigation into the reported conduct and to ensure that it cannot happen again. We urge you to do so.”

The ProPublica report revealed Thomas accepted a number of trips and gifts from Republican businessman Harlan Crow over decades, though Crow claims he had “never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue”.

In their letter, senators told Roberts that “you have a role to play as well, both in investigating how such conduct could take place at the court under your watch, and in ensuring that such conduct does not happen again”.

“The report describes conduct by a sitting justice that he did not disclose to the public and that is plainly inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any person in a position of public trust,” the senators wrote.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants Clarence Thomas impeached

Democratic US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Sunday she wants Clarence Thomas impeached over his trips with a Republican mega-donor.

“It is the House’s responsibility to pursue that investigation in the form of impeachment,” she told CNN in an interview.

Her comments to CNN echo statements made last week after ProPublica revealed Thomas may have violated financial disclosure rules over his relationship with property billionaire Harlan Crow.

The report showed Thomas accepted expensive trips from Crow over decades despite federal law requiring the disclosure of most gifts.

Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged it was unlikely the Republican majority in the House of Representatives would want to take action against the conservative justice.

Thomas has defended the trips, saying in a statement on Friday that he had been advised he was not required to report that type of “personal hospitality”, and that he would now follow new rules brought in by the judicial conference responsible for financial disclosure requirements for the entire federal judiciary.

Crow told ProPublica he had “never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue”.


Hello, Kari Paul here on the west coast taking over the blog for a bit. Stay tuned for more updates.


Senate to hold hearing on supreme court justice's trips, demand investigation

The Senate judiciary committee will hold a hearing on conservative supreme court justice Clarence Thomas’s travel with Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow, and has demanded chief justice John Roberts investigate his activities, Reuters reports.

It was not immediately clear when the hearing would take place. On Thursday, ProPublica reported that Thomas had for years accepted flights on private jets and stays in exclusive resorts from Crow, who is linked to a number of conservative causes.


Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has a message for the House Republicans who plan to hold a committee hearing in New York City next week to address the issue of crime: go somewhere else.

In particular, he questions why Jim Jordan, chair of the judiciary committee that’s holding the hearing, doesn’t convene lawmakers in one of the Ohio cities near his district where the murder rate is higher:

— Alvin Bragg (@ManhattanDA) April 10, 2023

This all has to do with Donald Trump, whom Bragg has indicted for allegedly falsifying business records. Republicans such as Jordan have hit back at the prosecutor, saying he should be more concerned with crime in his own district.

At her briefing today, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Texas federal judge’s ruling suspending mifepristone was part of the Republican campaign to outlaw abortion nationwide, the Hill reports:

.@PressSec on Texas decision on abortion pill: “what we're seeing currently right now is part of the plan, it's part of what we’ve been hearing from extreme MAGA Republicans… who say they want a national abortion ban.”

— AlexGangitano (@AlexGangitano) April 10, 2023

However, she said the Biden administrations wouldn’t follow the advice of some Democrats, such as progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to ignore the ruling, according to Semafor:

Karine Jean-Pierre says it would set a "dangerous precedent" for the admin to disregard a binding court decision, in response to Q on AOC's call for the admin to ignore ruling on mifepristone.

— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) April 10, 2023

More than 250 pharmaceutical industry leaders have released an open letter decrying the Texas federal judge’s ruling suspending authorization of abortion medication mifepristone:

The decision ignores decades of scientific evidence and legal precedent. Judge Kacsmaryk’s act of judicial interference has set a precedent for diminishing FDA’s authority over drug approvals, and in so doing, creates uncertainty for the entire biopharma industry. As an industry we count on the FDA’s autonomy and authority to bring new medicines to patients under a reliable regulatory process for drug evaluation and approval. Adding regulatory uncertainty to the already inherently risky work of discovering and developing new medicines will likely have the effect of reducing incentives for investment, endangering the innovation that characterizes our industry.”

Among the signatories on the letter is Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, as well as officials from major drugmakers like Merck and Biogen.

You can read the letter here.

Justice department appeals ruling suspending abortion medication

The Biden administration has filed an appeal against a federal judge’s ruling last week that suspended the approval of one of the drugs used in medication abortion, NBC News reports.

In its appeal, the justice department said the ruling by Matthew Kacsmaryk, a conservative judge appointed by Donald Trump and seated in Amarillo, Texas, “upended decades of reliance by blocking FDA’s approval of mifepristone and depriving patients of access to this safe and effective treatment, based on the court’s own misguided assessment of the drug’s safety.”

The department called the ruling, which is to go into effect Friday and could mean mifepristone is taken off pharmacy shelves nationwide, “extraordinary and unprecedented.” If the fifth circuit court of appeals does not grant the stay, the justice department may decide to appeal to the supreme court, NBC reports.

Biden attacks Republicans after Louisville shooting

Joe Biden has released a statement of condolence following the mass shooting that left five people dead in Louisville, Kentucky, while attacking Republicans for passing what he called “dangerous bills” that make gun violence worse.

“How many more Americans must die before Republicans in Congress will act to protect our communities? It’s long past time that we require safe storage of firearms. Require background checks for all gun sales. Eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. We can and must do these things now,” Biden said.

Here’s his statement in full:

Once again, our nation is in mourning after a senseless act of gun violence. Jill and I are praying for those killed and injured in the tragic shooting in Louisville, and for the survivors who will carry grief and trauma for the rest of their lives. We are grateful to the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department officers who quickly and courageously stepped into the line of fire to save others.
How many more Americans must die before Republicans in Congress will act to protect our communities? It’s long past time that we require safe storage of firearms. Require background checks for all gun sales. Eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability. We can and must do these things now. A strong majority of Americans want lawmakers to act on commonsense gun safety reforms. Instead, from Florida to North Carolina to the U.S. House of Representatives, we’ve watched Republican officials double down on dangerous bills that make our schools, places of worship, and communities less safe. It’s unconscionable, it’s reckless, and too many Americans are paying with their lives.

The Connecticut US senator Richard Blumenthal said Sunday that he had surgery aimed at repairing a broken leg that he suffered at a parade celebrating a national championship won by his state’s flagship university.

Blumenthal, a 77-year-old Democrat, told the local News 12 station that someone fell on him after tripping while they were at Saturday’s parade honoring the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team, which won its first-ever national championship on 3 April.

He then said Sunday on Twitter that he had surgery to help heal a break to one of his upper femurs, calling the procedure “completely successful” and saying his medical caretakers had been “magnificent”. Blumenthal also said he had already started his physical therapy and planned to be back at work in the nation’s capital in the middle of April, when Congress is set to resume its legislative session after a break.

Second, a quick update: I just got out of surgery to repair the minor fracture to my upper femur. The surgery was completely successful and the staff, docs, and everyone here at Stamford Hospital has been magnificent.

— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) April 9, 2023

Connecticut’s other Democratic senator, Chris Murphy, said Blumenthal managed to finish the parade before going to the hospital after fracturing his leg. “He … dusted himself off and FINISHED THE PARADE,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. “Most Dick Blumenthal thing ever.”

Blumental is in his third term in the US Senate after first being elected to the chamber in 2010.

He wrote on Twitter that he was “grateful to everyone who has called, texted or tweeted … well wishes” since news of his leg fracture spread across social media, adding: “It means so much to me and my family – thank you.”


Donald Trump is the only former American president ever to be indicted, but the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports that he now thinks the charges could be useful in his quest to return to the White House:

Donald Trump appeared angry and shaken during his arraignment in Manhattan criminal court on Tuesday, but he had brushed off the moment by the weekend, contending that the indictment and other legal troubles would carry him to the 2024 Republican nomination, people close to him said.

With his status as a criminal defendant subjecting him to the strictures of the judicial process, the former president is playing an increasingly high-stakes game to inextricably tie his legal strategy to his political gameplan as he seeks to recapture the Oval Office next year.

Trump’s wager is that using his legal troubles as a campaign issue will harden support from his base and Republican elected officials, and that support could undercut or falsely delegitimize prosecutions in Georgia or by the US justice department in other criminal investigations.

The day so far

America’s gun violence epidemic continues, with five people killed in a mass shooting at a bank building in Louisville, Kentucky this morning. Meanwhile, Tennessee Republicans have managed to oust from the state House of Representatives two Black Democratic lawmakers who staged a noisy protest in favor of gun control after a mass shooting in Nashville – but local officials may reappoint them back to their seats, with one being voted on as soon as today.

Here’s what else has happened today so far:

  • Joe Biden will run for re-election, but plans to make a formal announcement in the future, he said in a surprising, offhand remark at the annual White House Easter egg roll.

  • Donald Trump is suing to stop his former vice-president Mike Pence from talking to a grand jury investigating the January 6 insurrection.

  • Nancy Mace, a Republican lawmaker in the US House of Representatives, says the Biden administration should ignore a conservative federal judge’s ruling suspending the certification of one of the drugs used in medication abortion.

Kentucky’s governor Andy Beshear said he lost two friends in the shooting in downtown Louisville today.

Beshear and lieutenant governor Jacqueline Coleman are the only Democrats elected statewide in the otherwise overwhelmingly red state. Last month, Beshear took no action on a Republican-backed bill that would make Kentucky a “Second Amendment Sanctuary” where police are banned from enforcing federal gun legislation, allowing it to become law, according to WTVQ.

Here are his comments, courtesy of the Washington Post:

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said two of his close friends were killed in the shooting and another was injured. The shooter had a connection to the downtown Louisville bank targeted in Monday’s shooting, authorities said during a news conference.

“I have a very close friend…

— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) April 10, 2023

The ranks of disaffected Trump administration officials are deep, and include people who were once in positions of great power. Among them is William Barr, his former attorney general. Over the weekend, Barr predicted that the former president would be in deep trouble over the January 6 insurrection and the classified documents scandal, the Guardian’s Sam Levine reports:

Donald Trump “has a penchant for engaging in reckless and self-destructive behavior” and is facing a serious threat of a federal indictment over his handling of classified documents and his supporters’ deadly January 6 attack on the US Capitol, his former attorney general William Barr said on Sunday.

“He’s dug himself a hole on the documents, and also on the January 6 stuff,” Barr said of the former president during an interview on ABC’s This Week. “That was reckless behavior that was destined to end up being investigated. So it doesn’t surprise me that he has all these legal problems.”

A US justice department special counsel, Jack Smith, is investigating whether Trump obstructed an inquiry into his handling of classified documents at the Mar-a-Lago estate.

Donald Trump is trying to prevent his former vice-president, Mike Pence, from testifying to the grand jury investigating the January 6 insurrection, NBC News reports:

NEW: Donald Trump has filed an appeal seeking to block Mike Pence from testifying before a federal grand jury hearing evidence related to Jan 6, a source confirms to @LauraAJarrett. @GaryGrumbach spotted Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran at the DC federal courthouse this morning

— Daniel Barnes (@dnlbrns) April 10, 2023

Pence chose not to appeal the district judge's order to testify after he won a narrow victory on speech & debate grounds, but Trump can still appeal on executive privilege grounds

— Daniel Barnes (@dnlbrns) April 10, 2023

Earlier this month, Pence decided to drop his legal challenge to the subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith, who is investigating the insurrection at the Capitol in addition to Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the classified documents discovered at Mar-a-Lago.

Over the weekend, one of Donald Trump’s lawyer elaborated on their strategy to derail the ex-president’s prosecution. Here’s the Guardian’s Ramon Antonio Vargas with the latest:

While Donald Trump launches verbal attacks against the prosecutor and judge overseeing his criminal charges in connection with hush money payments to the adult film star Stormy Daniels, an attorney for the former US president has said his main focus is on legal maneuvers aiming to get the case dismissed long before a trial jury is ever seated.

Jim Trusty appeared on Sunday on ABC’s This Week and argued that “there’s a lot to play with” when examining whether New York state prosecutors waited too long to secure an indictment against Trump and if the ex-president intended to commit any crimes with the payments at the center of the case.

The payments were made at the height of the 2016 White House race which Trump won, and Trusty also reiterated questions that his side has previously asked about whether the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, should be able to apply “federal election law into a New York case”.

Tennessee’s Republican House speaker Cameron Sexton will not try to stop ousted Democrats Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from returning to their seats, should they be reappointed.

That’s according to local broadcaster WKRN, who received a statement from Sexton’s press secretary:

NEW: Press Sec. for Speaker Cameron Sexton tells me Justin Jones and Justin Pearson will be sat, if the county commissions vote for it.


“The two governing bodies will make the decision as to who they want to appoint to these seats…”@WKRN #TNLeg23


— Chris O’Brien (@THEChrisOB) April 10, 2023

…Those two individuals will be seated as representatives as the constitution requires.”@WKRN #TNLeg23

— Chris O’Brien (@THEChrisOB) April 10, 2023

Now that Joe Biden has (basically) declared his re-election intentions, let’s check in on Donald Trump, his freshly indicted opponent who remains the most popular man among Republican candidates.

In a post on his Truth Social account this morning, Trump encouraged Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely expected to throw his hat into the 2024 primary field for the GOP nomination, not to run. Here’s the former president’s argument:

Ron DeSantis is a young man who is not doing well against me in the polls, to put it mildly. I believe that if he decides to run for President, which will only hurt and somewhat divide the Republican Party, he will lose the cherished and massive MAGA vote, and never be able to successfully run for office again. If he remains Governor, which is what Florida voters assumed, it would be a whole different story….JUST SAYIN’ - But who knows?”


Five dead in Louisville mass shooting

Five people have been killed in a mass shooting at a bank building in downtown Louisville, the city’s police department confirms:

The lone shooter is deceased

— LMPD (@LMPD) April 10, 2023

Total deceased is 5. At least 6 more were transported to UL hospital.

— LMPD (@LMPD) April 10, 2023

CNN reports that Joe Biden has been informed of the shooting:

President Biden has been informed of the shooting in Louisville, Kentucky, a White House official tells @JDiamond1.

— Priscilla Alvarez (@priscialva) April 10, 2023

Follow the Guardian’s story for the latest:

House Republican Nancy Mace told CNN she also thinks the Biden administration should ignore the ruling from a conservative federal judge ruling that could cut off access to medication abortion.

Here’s a clip of that interview:

Republican @NancyMace says she believes the FDA should ignore the Texas judge’s ruling. “This is an FDA approved drug. Whether you agree with its usage or not, that's not your decision. That is the FDA’s decision.”

— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) April 10, 2023

While Mace says she opposes abortion, she has also in the past rejected some of the more extreme proposals from her fellow Republicans aimed at curtailing access to the procedure.

Democrats are furious after a conservative federal judge revoked the authorization of one of two drugs used in medication abortion – with some saying the Biden administration should ignore the ruling entirely. Here’s the Guardian’s Sam Levine with the latest:

The New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said on Sunday there was “an extraordinary amount of precedent” for the Joe Biden White House to ignore a Friday court ruling suspending federal approval of a drug used in medication abortion.

Those remarks from the Democratic US House member quickly prompted a threat by the Texas Republican congressman Tony Gonzales to defund certain programs under the federal agency which oversees medication approvals if Biden’s administration did as Ocasio-Cortez suggested.

The Biden administration has already said it plans to appeal a Friday ruling from Texas-based federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a conservative appointed by the Donald Trump White House, that blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of the drug mifepristone. The FDA approved the drug in 2000, a move that is now being challenged by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group.

Joe Biden low-key announces re-election campaign

Joe Biden confirmed today that he will stand for a second term in the White House, but will make a former announcement later on.

The comment came in an interview with television personality Al Roker during today’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House. After some banter between the two men about whether Biden would be hosting the annual tradition beyond 2024, Roker pressed the president to clarify his intentions.

“I’m planning on running, Al, but we’re not ready to announce it yet,” the president said.

You can watch the clip below:

NEW: TODAY’s @alroker asks President Biden about his possible Presidential run in 2024.

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 10, 2023

Expulsion vote could come back to haunt Tennessee GOP

Officially, Tennessee’s Republican party is defending the vote by its lawmakers to oust two Democrats from the state house of representatives after they staged a noisy protest in favor of gun control legislation. Here’s their statement from Thursday, when the expulsion occurred:

— TN House Republicans (@tnhousegop) April 7, 2023

And yet, there are signs from within the party that the banishment wasn’t the best idea, despite the fact that Tennessee is an overwhelmingly red state.

“If my job, along with other members of the RNC, is to protect the brand of the Republican Party, this didn’t help,” Oscar Brock, a Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, told the New York Times. “You’ve energized young voters against us. Worse than squandering support, you’ve made enemies where we didn’t need them.”

He continued:

Even in Tennessee, we have swing districts in the State House and Senate and if you’ve angered tens of thousands of students and presumably their parents, you could theoretically expose yourself to a united front.”

The GOP is already reeling nationally as it feels the consequences of its enthusiastic support for the supreme court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. Last week, a conservative candidate lost the race for a crucial Wisconsin supreme court seat, which could set the stage for Democrats to undo the swing state’s gerrymandered legislative maps and its abortion ban.

As for the two Black Democrats ousted from the Tennessee House last week, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, they seem set to be reappointed to their seats by the local councils in their constituencies.


Ousted Tennessee Democrat may head back to statehouse after vote today

Good morning, US politics blog readers. Republicans in Tennessee last week removed two Black Democratic lawmakers who staged a noisy protest in favor of gun regulations on the floor of the state house of representatives, but they may not be gone for long. The Associated Press reports that Nashville’s metro council will today vote to send one of the now-former lawmakers right back to his seat, while the Shelby county commission could do the same for the other legislator on Wednesday. We’ll then see what the state GOP thinks of this.

Here’s what else is happening today:

  • Abortion pill access appears imperiled after a Friday evening ruling from a conservative Texas federal judge revoked the approval of one of two pills used in medication abortion, though another judge in Washington state simultaneously ordered the pills remain available.

  • House Republicans remain very, very mad at Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg for indicting Donald Trump, and have just announced a hearing featuring “victims of violent crime in Manhattan” for next Monday.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre briefs reporters at 2pm.


Kari Paul (now) and Chris Stein in Washington (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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