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Lawyer for billionaire tied to US Justice Thomas offers Senate staff meeting


By Susan Heavey and Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Texas billionaire Harlan Crow’s lawyer has offered to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee staff to discuss the businessman’s ties to conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, but Democratic senators on Tuesday said the Republican donor was refusing to cooperate with legitimate requests for information.

Revelations in media reports about the links between Thomas, the court’s longest-tenured member, and Crow including real estate purchases and luxury travel paid for by the businessman have prompted calls from Democratic lawmakers for more rigorous ethics standards for the Supreme Court.

The Democratic-led Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the subject in May. Crow, a major Republican donor, last month, rejected the panel’s request for a meeting.

In a six-page follow-up letter made public on Tuesday, Crow’s lawyer Michael Bopp reiterated that he does not think the committee has the power to request information from Crow or to impose ethics standards on the nation’s top judicial body, as it is considering pursuing, but that he “would welcome a discussion with your staff.”

“The latest correspondence from Harlan Crow’s lawyer is a clear, unwarranted refusal to cooperate with legitimate requests for information from this committee,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and Democratic panel member Sheldon Whitehouse said in a statement, adding that “all options are on the table moving forward.”

Separately, Bopp declined to provide another Democratic-led Senate panel, the Finance Committee, any personal financial information about Crow, it said. In a statement, the panel accused Crow of “stonewalling” and “doubling down on bogus legal theories.” Senator Ron Wyden, the panel’s chairman, said the committee is considering issuing a subpoena.

Bopp told the Finance Committee in a letter dated June 2 that it “has no authority to target specific individuals’ personal financial information when the asserted legislative goals could be served in less intrusive ways” but that he and Crow would still “work with the committee.”

The news outlet ProPublica has detailed the ties between Thomas and Crow. Separately, the news outlet Politico has reported that conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch failed to disclose the buyer of a Colorado property in which he had a stake – the chief executive of a major law firm whose attorneys have been involved in numerous Supreme Court cases.

Unlike other federal judges, Supreme Court justices are not bound by the code of conduct adopted by the policymaking body for the broader U.S. judiciary that requires federal judges to avoid even the “appearance of impropriety.”

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Kanishka Singh; Editing by Will Dunham)

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