By Katelynn Richardson
Democratic Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson’s attempt to ask “gotcha” questions about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ alleged ethics violations during Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Wednesday testimony before the House Judiciary Committee hearing didn’t quite go as intended.
Johnson, referencing Garland’s time on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, asked if he ever had the opportunity to travel on a billionaire-funded private jet to an “exotic location” — a not-so-veiled reference to expense-paid trips Thomas took with long-time friend and billionaire real estate developer Harlan Crow. When Johnson continued pressing beyond Garland’s initial “no,” Garland said he wasn’t interested in answering these kinds of questions.
“I know these are not hypothetical questions, and I think this is really not within my realm,” Garland said.
“You were a judge extraordinaire, and you know the rules of ethics for judges because your bench was covered by a code of conduct, is that not correct?” Johnson said.
“Yes, all the judges, federal, appellate and district judges, are covered by the code of conduct,” Garland said.
“You never would have had somebody to pay for your godson’s tuition to private school?” Johnson said.
“I don’t want to answer these kinds of hypothetical, at least to me they’re hypothetical, questions.” Garland said. “What I would say is that I’ve always, as a judge, and I’ve said this before, quite publicly, long ago, I always hold myself to the highest possible standards of ethical responsibility imposed by the code. And that is really all I can answer here.”
Johnson also referenced a letter he, along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, sent to Garland regarding Clarence Thomas.
“I assume that if you send the letter we have it, and I’ll speak to the office of legislative affairs about where it is at this point,” Garland said.
Thomas released his 2022 financial disclosure in August after requesting an extension. The attorney who helped prepare it, Berke Farah LLP managing partner Elliot Berke, wrote in an accompanying statement that it refutes allegations “trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy.”