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Harlan Crow keeps stiffing Senate scrutiny of him and Clarence Thomas

Will congressional committees finally force a possible court battle with Clarence Thomas’ billionaire benefactor?


Harlan Crow is finally, slowly, maybe inching his way toward a congressional subpoena in Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' ethics scandal. The Republican megadonor is still blowing off the Senate judiciary and finance committees by effectively telling them they're not allowed to investigate him or, by extension, Thomas and the Supreme Court. Yet it’s unclear exactly how Congress will respond to Crow’s ongoing obstruction.

His latest offering, to the judiciary committee on Monday, reiterated his stated belief (via his lawyer) that “the Committee lacks authority to conduct its investigation of Mr. Crow and Justice Thomas,” and that it “does not have the power to impose ethics standards on the Supreme Court.” Therefore, according to Crow’s logic, the committee “cannot mount an investigation for the purpose of helping craft such standards.”

At the very least, that argument is worth testing out in court if need be. Leaving the claim unopposed is tantamount to conceding it.  

NBC News reported Tuesday that a Senate Judiciary Committee aide said Crow's response wasn't a meaningful or good-faith answer to the committee’s request for information on gifts he gave Thomas or other justices. In a joint statement, committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and member Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, who also sits on the finance committee, said, "All options are on the table:"

Let’s be clear: Harlan Crow doesn’t call the shots here. He is not a branch — nor even a member — of government and cannot claim the protections and privileges of one. The Senate Judiciary Committee has clearly established oversight and legislative authority to assess and address the ethical crisis facing the Court. All options are on the table moving forward.

Similarly, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called Crow’s latest rebuff of his committee a “stonewall."

"Nothing is off the table ... to compel answers to our questions from Mr. Crow, including by subpoena," he said.

It was clear from Crow’s initial responses to the committees' letter requests that he wasn't interested in complying, so the latest stonewalling can’t have come as a surprise. If the committees don't already have subpoenas drawn up, it’s unclear what they're waiting for.

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