Attorney for billionaire at center of Clarence Thomas controversy offers to meet with Judiciary staff

An attorney for GOP megadonor Harlan Crow offered to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee staff as Democrats push to investigate undisclosed, luxury trips that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted from the real estate developer.

Crow’s attorney, Michael Bopp, has rebuffed the committee’s demands for information, but in a Monday letter, Bopp offered to meet with the committee staff to discuss their request.

“While the concerns we expressed in our Response about the Committee’s investigation remain, we respect the Senate Judiciary Committee’s important role in formulating legislation concerning our federal courts system, and would welcome a discussion with your staff,” Bopp wrote.

ProPublica’s reporting on Thomas’s luxury trips with Crow have caused an uproar among Democrats and judicial watchdog groups, renewing a push for the justices to adopt a binding code of ethics.

Thomas has defended not disclosing the trip, saying they fell under a personal hospitality exception. The exceptions were clarified earlier this year, and Thomas vowed to follow the new standard in the future.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats last month asked Crow to provide a full list of gifts and trips he gave Thomas over the years, and requests were also sent to holding companies that owned Crow’s private jet, yacht and Adirondacks property. Republicans declared the effort as a strategy to tear down the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.

Bopp refused the request in a letter last month, citing separation of powers concerns.

“To reiterate, Congress does not have the power to impose ethics standards on the Supreme Court,” Bopp wrote Monday.

“It therefore cannot mount an investigation for the purpose of helping craft such standards,” he continued. “The Committee also may not pursue an investigation for the purpose of targeting and exposing private facts about an individual.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (DR.I.), a leading advocate in the Senate for Supreme Court ethics reform, called the response “a clear, unwarranted refusal to cooperate with legitimate requests for information.”

“Let’s be clear: Harlan Crow doesn’t call the shots here,” they said in a statement. “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.”

– Updated 3:35 pm

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