Real-estate billionaire and GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, who has come under fire for his mysterious relationship with Justice Clarence Thomas, is refusing to cooperate with a Senate Judiciary Committee probe.
In a Monday night letter to Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, obtained by POLITICO, Crow’s lawyer said the panel did not have “the authority to investigate Mr. Crow’s personal friendship with” Thomas. Crow declined to answer questions from Durbin and other Democrats about the developer’s relationship with and pattern of expensive gifts to the Supreme Court justice.
The committee “has not identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorized to conduct an ethics investigation of a Supreme Court Justice,” reads the letter from Michael Bopp.
Durbin tore into that response Tuesday.
“Harlan Crow believes the secrecy of his lavish gifts to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of the highest court of law in this land. He is wrong,” the Illinois Democrat said.
The relationship between Thomas and Crow has come under intense scrutiny since a series of reports from ProPublica that detailed lavish gifts and luxury travel that Thomas received from Crow, plus favorable real estate transactions and gifts that Thomas did not include in his annual financial disclosures.
Durbin pledged that Judiciary would respond “more fully in short order” and will continue pressing for “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.”
Crow’s lawyer rejected Senate Democrats’ arguments that their inquiries into Crow are centered around exploring a fresh code of ethics for the court. Bopp accused them of “targeting Justice Thomas for special and unwarranted opprobrium.”
Durbin blasted Bopp’s argument in the letter that “Congress does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court,” and that “doing so would exceed Congress’ Article I authority and violate basic separation of powers principles.”
“Mr. Crow’s letter relies on a separation of powers defense when Mr. Crow does not work, and has never worked, for the Supreme Court,” Durbin said Tuesday.