Durbin must invite Clarence Thomas to testify about gifts, free travel from Harlan Crow

If Thomas doesn’t show up to testify to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his ties to the Republican billionaire Crow, make the declination part of the rapidly growing record against the Supreme Court justice.

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Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said he won’t invite U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about ties to billionaire Harlan Crow.

Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said he won’t invite U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about ties to billionaire Harlan Crow.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photos

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas certainly owes the American public answers about the dodgy nature of his relationship with Harlan Crow.

After all, the GOP billionaire allegedly wined and dined Thomas and the justice’s wife, Ginni, with expensive gifts like a $19,000 Bible, and vacations to places like Indonesia on Crow’s 162-foot super yacht, the Michaela Rose.

Crow even shelled out $133,000 to buy property from the justice — including the house in which Thomas’s mother lives rent-free.

All the while, organizations linked to Crow had cases before the court. And rather than recuse himself, Thomas ruled in their favor.

Editorial

Editorial

A way to get to the bottom of all this — to find out if there is some quid pro Crow going on — could be to call the justice before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

But the committee’s chair, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, says he won’t do it.

“I think I know what would happen to that invitation,” Durbin said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It would be ignored.”

That’s the wrong approach, we’re convinced.

Invite Thomas anyway

Durbin did invite Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — or another justice whom the top judge could designate — to the May 2 Judiciary Committee meeting.

But if Durbin thinks sending an invite to Thomas is a waste of time, having Roberts actually show up could well be even more so.

That’s because Roberts has done next to nothing while polls show public mistrust of the nation’s highest court grows.

On the other hand, we like that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, contacted Crow on Monday, seeking information about the gifts and travel — with the possible threat of getting the tax man involved.

“While ethics experts disagree with Justice Thomas’ assertion that these benefits provided by you qualify under the ‘personal hospitality’ exception in ethics rules, the Internal Revenue Code provides no such exceptions for transfers of a gratuitous or personal nature,” the committee’s letter to Crow said.

Meanwhile Durbin is likely right that Thomas won’t respond to an invite — and GOP members on the panel have enough votes to make issuing a subpoena difficult.

But don’t give Thomas an easy out, senator. Invite him anyway. And make his declination part of the rapidly growing record against him.

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