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Harlan Crow refuses to provide Senate Finance Committee with list of gifts he gave Justice Clarence Thomas


WASHINGTON — Republican donor Harlan Crow wrote in a letter to the Senate Finance Committee on Monday that he would not provide a list of gifts he gave Justice Clarence Thomas, who was recently called upon to resign.

Crow conveyed that decision to the committee’s chairman, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., on Monday, which a representative for Crow provided to NBC News. Wyden spokesman Ryan Carey also confirmed to NBC that the committee received the letter.

“We have serious concerns about the scope and authority of this investigation. As you know, the Committee’s investigative powers are not unlimited,” said the letter from Crow’s attorney, Michael D. Bop.

The Senate Finance Committee, Bopp argued, has no legislative purpose in its request for a gift list, saying that “the Supreme Court has explicitly stated that Congress does not have the authority to initiate law enforcement investigations or conduct investigations aimed at exposing private citizens affairs for the sake of exposure.

The committee also lacks the authority to conduct a tax audit, Bopp wrote, “for the purpose of determining whether Judge Thomas has complied with the ethical standards that the president believes should apply. in this case”.

Additionally, Bopp said the panel’s investigation of a Supreme Court justice “raises substantial concerns about the separation of powers.”

The letter argues that the Crows, who Bopp said have been friends with the Thomases for more than 20 years, offered hospitality to the judge and his family. The IRS, Bopp wrote, has not been aggressive in arguing that a gift tax law applies in this context. He also said the sale of Thomas-related properties, which the judge did not disclose, complied with federal and state gift tax laws.

Politico was first to break the news of Crow’s rejection of Wyden’s request from April 24.

In a letter to Crow, Wyden had requested a full account of the undisclosed extravagant trips, gifts and payments that were first reported by ProPublica.

Specifically, Wyden requested an itemized list of all of Thomas’ free flights on Crow’s private jets and trips on his superyacht, an accounting of federal tax returns for gifts given to Thomas or his family, and information on three Georgia properties that Crow purchased from Thomas. and his relatives.

The Democratic senator also asked if a Crow-owned business treated any travel on Crow’s yacht or private jets that included Thomas as business expenses for tax purposes.

Crow’s refusal to comply with the request is separate from the investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee. President Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked Crow in a letter Monday to identify the full extent of what he gave Thomas and any other Supreme Court justices.

Durbin and other Democrats on the committee asked Crow to provide a detailed list of gifts worth more than $415 he gave Thomas or any other judge or their family members. They also asked Crow to provide a full list of real estate transactions, transportation, lodging, and admission to private clubs that he might have provided.

More revelations have recently surfaced about Crow and Thomas’ relationship, including a ProPublica report last week that Crow paid thousands in tuition for one of the judge’s relatives.

Lawrence Hurley contributed.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.