A powerful Democrat in the Senate is threatening to send a subpoena to conservative billionaire Harlan Crow, who offered luxury travel and was involved in a private real estate deal with Clarence Thomas and his family, Tensions have risen between Democrats and Mr Crow over his relationship with a Supreme Court justice.
Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden responded to the latest letter, in which Crow’s lawyers did not provide details of his relationship with Thomas, and suggested filing a subpoena on Tuesday.
Oregon Democrats said they had begun “productive discussions” about next steps to compel Crow to respond “including subpoenas.”
It was the first time Wyden specifically said he was considering a subpoena.
“That’s exactly why the Finance Committee is pursuing this issue as part of a broader review of ultra-high net worth gift and inheritance tax practices,” Wyden said.
Wyden and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin are both investigating the matter.
Wyden’s statement came after Crow’s attorney, Michael Bopp, told Durbin late Monday that he planned to meet with the commission’s staff to discuss issues related to his client’s interactions with Thomas. became.
But Mr. Bopp reiterated that the commission did not have the authority to investigate their relationship.
“We respect the important role of the Senate Judiciary Committee in developing legislation about the federal court system and welcome discussions with the staff,” Bopp wrote.
On Tuesday, Mr Durbin and a Democratic White House senator issued a statement scathing Mr Crow, warning that “all options are on the table going forward.”
“Let me be clear, Harlan Crow does not have the say here,” the senators said, adding that the Judiciary Committee would “assess and address the ethical crises facing the courts.” We have clearly established oversight and legislative powers for
Wyden previously asked the Texas billionaire team to submit a number of documents to the commission by June 2, and the commission asked him to provide him with personal tax information as part of an investigation into whether or not he was entertained. Crow argued that he did not have the authority to demand travel records. He told Thomas that he could violate U.S. tax law.
Crowe’s relationship with Thomas has been in the spotlight since ProPublica published a series of reports detailing the luxury trip Thomas received from Crowe, as well as a personal real estate deal in 2014 with Thomas’ family. ing. The majority of real estate transactions and entertainment were not reported in Thomas’ annual financial disclosure, as were tuition payments for Thomas’ grandnephews reported by Crow.
The letter to the Judiciary Committee explains why Bopp does not believe he is authorized to receive information from Crowe. Lawyers argued that the commission’s investigation violated the separation of powers principle between the court and Congress. He further said the commission had no legitimate legal purpose for the investigation.
“Again, Congress does not have the authority to impose ethical standards on the Supreme Court,” Bopp wrote, adding, “Therefore, an inquiry cannot be launched for the purpose of helping develop such standards.” Stated.
He added, “Because the Commission is requesting information about equivalent government sector leaders that suggests careful consideration of the separation of powers, it is important to establish a valid legislative purpose for seeking the requested information.” We have to meet higher standards,” he added.
“Again, the commission’s investigation is inadequate,” Bopp wrote.
He asked the committee to “re-evaluate its partisan policy,” but Durbin said he would “ask staff to contact me if they had any questions about this response and allow time to discuss the request further.” “Don’t hesitate,” he concluded the letter. ”
In previous correspondence, Mr. Durbin said he believed information from Mr. Crow was “highly relevant” to the committee’s continued efforts to develop a judicial ethics reform bill.
He said Crow had a “tight interpretation” of Congress’ constitutional authority to legislate in the field of government ethics and had a “totally irrelevant” view of the separation of powers, which he said was a “completely irrelevant” view. Durbin argued that it would only apply to requests from “government coordinating departments.” It’s a government, not an individual.
This story has been updated with additional developments.