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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas questioned about RV loan

Two leading Democratic senators are pressing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to say whether he repaid a wealthy friend part of the principal on a $267,230 loan he used to buy a camper. luxury.

The letter to Thomas’ lawyer, dated Tuesday, raises questions about possible tax violations by the conservative justice, who is the longest-serving member of the Supreme Court.

Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Ore., claim in their letter that Thomas never repaid a significant portion of the principal loaned to him by Anthony Welters, nor did Thomas indicate if the loan had been canceled.

“The fact that such income from debt forgiveness was not reported in any of Judge Thomas’s financial disclosure reports raises the possibility that Justice Thomas also did not report such forgiveness as income to tax purposes, as required by federal law,” the senators wrote in the resulting letter. by CNBC.

The New York Times first reported in August that Thomas paid for his 1999 Prevost Le Mirage XL Marathon – a luxury motorhome – with a loan from Welters, a close friend of his.

The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Wyden, found in October that Welters “stopped receiving principal or interest” on the loan in late 2008, the new letter notes.

“It appears that no principal was ever repaid on the loan before all payments were completed,” the letter states.

Thomas’ attorney, Elliot Berke, told senators in January that Justice made payments to Welters “until the terms of the agreement were fully satisfied,” according to Tuesday’s letter.

Wyden and Whitehouse called Berke’s response a “non-response.”

“‘Satisfied’ could have several meanings in the context of repayment, cancellation or discharge of debt,” the senators said in their letter.

“There should be a simple answer as to whether Judge Thomas had hundreds of thousands of debts forgiven so that he could retain possession of a luxury motorcoach that doubles as a second home,” the senators wrote.

If Thomas’ debt to Welters had been canceled, forgiven or discharged for less than the amount he owed, Thomas would have had to report the amount as income on his tax returns, the letter said.

“At this time, Judge Thomas has done absolutely nothing to address the perception that he failed to report hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt forgiveness on his federal tax returns and failed to pay income taxes owed,” the letter states.

“The possibility of a serious tax violation of this type by a member of the Supreme Court merits investigation,” wrote Wyden and Whitehouse, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the federal courts.

The senators asked Berke to respond with clarification on the terms and repayment of the loan by June 3.

Berke did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The investigation is only part of a larger ethical controversy surrounding Thomas.

ProPublica reported in April 2023 that the conservative Justice had for decades accepted luxury vacations from Republican billionaire Harlan Crow — an apparent violation of a financial disclosure law.

Later reports also revealed that Harlan paid Thomas’ great-nephew’s college tuition.

Democrats also asked Thomas to recuse himself from considering an appeal from former President Donald Trump, saying he was immune from prosecution in his federal election interference criminal case.

Democrats point out that his wife, Ginni Thomas, allegedly participated in efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Supreme Court arguments in Trump’s immunity appeal April 25, with Thomas on the bench.


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