By Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas can and should be impeached. The case and the grounds for impeachment proceedings against him are virtually iron-clad. The evidence is compelling that Thomas perjured himself in his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his court confirmation hearings in 1991. The evidence is equally compelling that this constituted lying under oath to Congress during the hearings.
The impeachment case against Thomas is not based on personal or political disagreement over his views, decisions, opinions and rulings on the bench, his penchant for pornographic material, or for sexual harassment. It is based on clear legal and constitutional grounds, precedents, and Congressional mandates. Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution explicitly states that a Supreme Court Justice that “lacks good behavior” can be impeached. This is not an ambiguous, subjective term. It has been interpreted by the courts to equate to the same level of seriousness as the ‘high crimes and misdemeanors” clause that unequivocally mandates that the House of Representatives initiate impeachment proceedings against any public official, or federal judge in violation of that provision.
The Constitutional precept is the first legal ground for impeachment proceedings against Thomas. The second is Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It states that any official of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the government of the United States who knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals, or covers up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact, makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation; or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry can be impeached. In other words lying to Congress is not only an impeachable offense. It’s also illegal.
It’s also clearly established that a public official whether the president, presidential appointees, or judges can be punished for giving false information and that’s any false information of any nature to the House or Senate.
The Nixon impeachment debates and Clinton impeachment hearings were ample proof that the constitutional phrase of “good behavior” embraces not only indictable crimes but “conduct … grossly incompatible with the office held and subversive of that office and of our constitutional system of government.”
Thomas was asked directly by Utah senator Orin Hatch during his confirmation hearings about Anita Hill’s allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct and whether he used sexually suggestive language. Thomas answered: “I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her. “
Thomas was emphatic, “If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it.” This was stated under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Thomas’s sworn testimony was clearly contradicted even then in public statements by witnesses. The witnesses were not called to testify. The one witness that contradicted Thomas’s sworn testimony, Angela Wright, did testify. She worked with Thomas at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and was emphatic that Thomas sexually harassed her and used explicit and graphic sexual language. Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter who told investigators about Thomas’ penchant for improper sexual talk. Letters to the committee from other women who worked with Thomas confirmed that he was a serial sexual harasser and had a penchant for sexually perverse talk. The Senate panel had other sources to corroborate the Hill-Wright charge that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment and obsessive interest in sexual smut. These sources were ignored too.
Two decades later Thomas’s apparent perjured testimony to Congress is now squarely back on the legal table. Lillian McEwen put it there. Her legal credentials are impressive. She is a former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel. She also dated Thomas. In interviews, she again confirmed that Hill and the other women’s allegations that Thomas engaged in sexual harassment, was addicted to pornography, and talked incessantly and graphically about it and women were truthful.
Thomas’s personal warped sexual predilections and perversions are not the issue as personally reprehensible as some may find them. The issue is his apparent perjured testimony to a congressional body about his words and conduct. There is no statute of limitations on bringing impeachment proceedings against officials who lie to Congress. The U.S. Code and the Constitution clearly spell out that when there’s evidence a Supreme Court justice may have lied under oath the House must bring articles of impeachment to determine guilt or innocence.
The ball is now squarely in the court of House judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers Jr. He is legally bound to do his and the House’s legal and Constitutional duty and begin impeachment proceedings immediately against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts nationally broadcast political affairs radio talk shows on Pacifica and KTYM Radio Los Angeles. Follow Earl Ofari Hutchinson on Twitter.