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Wyden Responds to Harlan Crow, Re Gifts to Clarence Thomas

Follow up to previous posting – Wyden Statement on Harlan Crow Stonewalling Committee Inquiry, May 17, 2023 – Wyden Responds to Harlan Crow, Restates Questions on Gifts to Clarence Thomas. “New Letter to Crow’s Attorney Outlines Committee Jurisdiction and Extensive Legislative and Investigative History on Gift and Estate Taxes and Billionaire Tax Compliance Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) today responded in a new letter to billionaire Republican activist Harlan Crow’s attorney and resubmitted key questions regarding real estate transactions and gifts of luxury travel he has provided to Justice Clarence Thomas and his family over multiple decades.  Crow’s attorney replied to Senator Wyden’s initial round of questions last week with a letter that called into question the jurisdictional and legislative basis for the inquiry. Today’s response provides a detailed walkthrough of the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction and legislative history on tax compliance, gift and estate taxes, and tax evasion and avoidance by billionaires. “My response to Mr. Crow eliminates any doubts as to the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction or our extensive legislative and investigative history on gift taxes, tax avoidance and evasion by the wealthy, and tax compliance overall,” Chairman Wyden said of his letter to Crow. “If Mr. Crow needs any further clarification, he might find it helpful to refer to the considerable amount of analysis his own law firm has done on the committee’s tax policy work. In Mr. Crow’s attorney’s response to my initial round of questions, he also argued that his client was somehow protected by the separation of powers between Congress and the judiciary. It goes without saying, but Mr. Crow is not a branch of government. My hope is that with the issue of committee jurisdiction settled, Mr. Crow provides answers to the questions I’ve put before him a second time. I realize the committee may need to follow another route to compel his answers, and I’m prepared to make that happen.” The full text of the letter is available here.

  • See also May 17, 2023 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing – Review of Federal Judicial Ethics Processes at the Judicial Conference of the United StatesWitness Testimony [97 pages] – The Honorable Mark L. Wolf, Senior U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts Boston, MA: “…The core constitutionally assigned function of the judiciary is to decide cases impartially. The Financial Disclosure statutes do not injure the ability of Justices and judges to do so. They only require that Justices and judges file accurate and complete annual reports of, among other things, their income, assets, gifts, travel, and certain financial information concerning their spouses. Therefore, the statutes promote the likelihood that Justices and judges will perform their core function properly, without bias, prejudice, or undue influence, and that reasonable people will not doubt that they are doing so…An independent judiciary is not necessarily an impartial judiciary. It could be a dishonest, unaccountable judiciary. Therefore, there must be means of determining whether a Justice or judge is capable of deciding a particular case impartially and whether reasonable, well-informed people can be confident that he or she is doing so. There must also be means of holding Justices and judges accountable if they violate their duties to, among other things, be honest and impartial…”
  • See also May 22, 2023 letter from Gibson Dunn to Chairman Durbin: “We represent Harlan Crow in relation to your letters of May 8, 2023 (the “Letters”). Today, we also are responding on behalf of CH Asset Company, Carey Commercial Ltd., and Topridge Holdings, LLC. We recognize the important role the Senate Judiciary Committee has in considering legislation related to our federal court system, and we appreciate the opportunity to engage with the Committee. After careful consideration, we do not believe the Committee has the authority to investigate Mr. Crow’s personal friendship with Justice Clarence Thomas. Most importantly, Congress does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court. Doing so would exceed Congress’s Article I authority and violate basic separation of powers principles. That precludes the Committee from pursuing an investigation in support of such legislation

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