May 25, 2023
A lawyer for Republican donor Harlan Crow has told Senate Judiciary Democrats that the billionaire businessman will not provide them with information about his relationship with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, reports NBC News.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee have asked Crow to provide a full accounting of the gifts, trips, and travel accommodations given to Thomas, or to any other justices or their family members.
Indeed, a May 8 letter from 11 Democratic members of the Judiciary panel, led by Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), directs Crow to provide the committee with itemized lists of all gifts worth more than $415, real estate transactions, and transportation or lodging given to Supreme Court justices or their family members; as well as a list of the occasions when Crow provided any of the justices with entrance to any private, members-only clubs.
Michael D. Bopp, Crow’s attorney, told Durbin in a letter on Monday, May 22, that he believes the committee doesn’t have the authority to “investigate Mr. Crow’s personal friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas.”
Congress “does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court,” Bopp wrote. “Doing so would exceed Congress’s Article I authority and violate basic separation of powers principles. That precludes the Committee from pursuing an investigation in support of such legislation.”
In response, Durbin released a statement saying the letter “did not provide a credible justification for the failure of Crow and three corporate entities to respond to the Committee’s written questions.”
“The Committee will respond more fully to this letter in short order, and will continue to seek a substantive response to our information requests in order to craft and advance the targeted ethics legislation needed to help restore trust in the Supreme Court,” Durbin said in a statement. “As I’ve said many times before: The Chief Justice has the power to establish a credible, enforceable code of conduct for the Court today. However, if the Court will not act, this Committee will.”
Bopp argued that the committee lacks a legislative purpose in its request for such a list. He said the “Supreme Court has explicitly stated that Congress has no authority to engage in law enforcement investigations or to conduct investigations aimed at exposing citizens’ private affairs for the sake of exposure.”
Thomas has been under fire over allegations reported by ProPublica that he failed to properly disclose trips and gifts paid for by Crow, the sale of Thomas’ and his relatives’ properties to Crow, and tuition that Crow had paid for one of the justice’s relatives.
Thomas said after ProPublic’s reports that he had been advised that the trips and gifts were “personal hospitality from close personal friends” and did not have to be reported in disclosures.
Research contact: @NBCNews