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Harlan Crowe refuses Senate request for information on Clarence Thomas relationship

WASHINGTON — Texas real estate magnate and GOP donor Harlan Crowe has rejected a request by Democrats to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Complete accounting The gifts, travel and travel accommodations he gave Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas claimed the committee did not have the authority to investigate Crowe’s relationship with the judiciary.

Michael Bopp, a lawyer for Crowe, told Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin in a letter obtained by CBS News that the panel had not identified a “legitimate legislative purpose” for its investigation and did not have the authority to examine ethics. A member of the Supreme Court.

“The committee’s stated intent to create new ethics guidelines for the Supreme Court is inconsistent with its actions and the circumstances under which this investigation was initiated, all of which suggest that the committee is targeting Justice Thomas for particular and unwarranted censure,” Bopp wrote in the May 22 letter. .

The letter was first obtained by CNN and Bloomberg.

Bopp also contends that Congress lacks the constitutional authority to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court.

“To do so would exceed Congress’s Article I authority and violate fundamental separation of powers principles,” Bopp told Durbin. “It precludes the committee from investigating support for such legislation.”

Several legislative proposals have been introduced in the House and Senate that would require a code of conduct for the Supreme Court, established by an outside body such as a judicial conference or court.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen.  Sheldon Whitehouse displays a copy of a painting featuring Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with other conservative leaders during a hearing on Supreme Court ethics reform on May 2, 2023.

Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse displays a copy of a painting featuring Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with other conservative leaders during a hearing on Supreme Court ethics reform on May 2, 2023.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Arguing that the Judiciary Committee lacked the authority to investigate Thomas’s congressional ethics, Crowe’s lawyer said it was “clear” the investigation was “part of a larger campaign to target and intimidate Justice Thomas and what the committee clearly believes will be an embarrassment.” Details of Justice’s personal life. These goals do not authorize the committee to conduct a congressional ethics investigation of Justice Thomas.”

Durbin slammed Bopp’s response, saying it “did not provide a credible justification” for the failure of Crowe and other entities to respond to the committee’s request. Still, he said the committee would not be deterred from seeking “substantive responses” to information requests to craft and move forward with the ethics law.

“Harlan Crowe believes the privacy of his extraordinary gift to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of this nation’s highest court,” the Illinois Democrat said in a statement. “He’s wrong.”

The letter from Crowe’s lawyer comes in response to requests by Judiciary panel Democrats sent to GOP megadonors and entities May 8 for information about his ties to Thomas, who owns private yachts, planes and private lakeside resorts.

From Crowe himself, the panel asked for an itemized list of all gifts valued at more than $415, real estate transactions, and transportation or lodging given to Supreme Court justices or members of their families, as well as a list of instances when Crowe gave to a judge. Any private, members-only club with access.

Senate Democrats asked other entities for a complete itinerary of all trips Thomas or any other justices took on yachts and jets, as well as lists of all guests who overlapped with the trial.

In addition to refusing to turn over information to the Judiciary Committee, Crowe’s lawyer A similar request is denied Sen. from Ron Wyden, the Democratic chairman of the finance panel, to determine whether Crowe’s gift to Thomas complied with relevant federal tax and ethics laws earlier this month.

Bopp told Wyden that his investigation “appears to be one element of a larger campaign against Justice Thomas” and fails to advance a legitimate legislative objective.

Thomas’ relationship with Crowe, which spans more than two decades, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid a drumbeat of reports from news outlet ProPublica. Gifts, luxury travel And financial system Thomas benefited during their friendship.

ProPublica also found that crow Tuition is paid for two years to private schools for Thomas’ grandson, which the court did not disclose on financial disclosure forms.

Durbin Invited Chief Justice John Roberts To answer the question Before the committee earlier this month about the ethics guidelines that judges follow. But Roberts refused to appear and instead sent a letter to Durbin that included a three-page “statement of ethical principles and practices” signed by nine justices.

The statement, however, did little to address Democrats’ concerns about the ethical standards upheld by the Supreme Court and justices, and they warned they could take legislative action to strengthen the ethical rules that govern the high court.

Republicans, however, have largely defended Thomas and claim that attention to his friendship with Crowe is part of a campaign to legitimize the Supreme Court in the wake of blockbuster rulings on abortion, the Second Amendment and climate change.

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