Clarence Thomas Aide Received Payments via Venmo from Lawyers Involved in Supreme Court Cases

Clarence Thomas Aide Received Payments via Venmo from Lawyers with Supreme Court Business


A top aide to Justice Clarence Thomas, Rajan Vasisht, received payments through Venmo from lawyers who have had cases before the Supreme Court. The payments, made during the 2019 Christmas season, highlight the connections between Thomas and certain senior Washington lawyers who argue cases in front of him.

Vasisht served as Thomas’s aide from July 2019 to July 2021. His Venmo account, which was publicly accessible until recently, showed that he received seven payments from lawyers who had previously worked as clerks for Thomas. The purpose of the payments was listed as variations of “Christmas party,” seemingly referring to Justice Thomas’s initials.

However, the exact nature and purpose of these funds remain unclear.


The lawyers who made the Venmo transactions include Patrick Strawbridge, a partner at Consovoy McCarthy, who successfully argued against race-conscious admissions at universities; Kate Todd, former White House deputy counsel under Donald Trump and current managing partner at Ellis George Cipollone’s law office; Elbert Lin, former solicitor general of West Virginia who played a key role in a Supreme Court case limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory authority over greenhouse gas emissions; and Brian Schmalzbach, a partner at McGuire Woods who has argued multiple cases before the Supreme Court.

Other lawyers who made payments include Manuel Valle, a former clerk for Thomas and current managing associate at Sidley, and Liam Hardy, an appeals court judge for the armed forces who previously worked at the Department of Justice’s office of legal counsel.

Will Consovoy, a former clerk for Thomas, who passed away earlier this year, also made a payment. Consovoy was regarded as a rising star in conservative legal circles and believed that the court was moving towards more conservative rulings on issues like voting rights, abortion, and affirmative action.

The lawyers who made payments did not respond to inquiries from the Guardian.

Vasisht’s duties, according to his résumé, included assisting Justice Thomas with administrative tasks and managing his schedule.

When contacted for comment, Vasisht declined to make a statement.

Legal experts have raised concerns about these payments. Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, criticized the practice, stating that it was inappropriate for former law clerks to essentially send money to the Supreme Court via Venmo. He emphasized that Thomas’s Christmas party should not be funded by lawyers and questioned the involvement of a federal government employee in collecting money from lawyers.

Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics at the Campaign Legal Center, suggested that the former clerks may have been paying for their own party expenses rather than expenses directly related to Justice Thomas. However, he emphasized the importance of providing an explanation to the public to avoid speculation.

Justice Thomas has been facing ethics scandals following revelations about his ties to wealthy donor Harlan Crow, including paid vacations, buying Thomas’s mother’s home, and funding his great-nephew’s education. These revelations have sparked concerns and calls for new ethics rules on Capitol Hill.

Thomas, known for his close relationships with former clerks, has a vast network of mentees serving as federal judges and in senior positions within the Trump administration. This network gives him an influential voice in the legal system.

No comment was received from Thomas’s chamber in response to requests for comment.

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