Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin introduced his motion Thursday to subpoena Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo, and Robin Arkley II for refusing to cooperate with the committee’s request for information in its Supreme Court ethics investigation. Durbin and committee member Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, announced earlier this week that they would have a committee vote on issuing the subpoenas in the coming days.
According to numerous press reports, Crow and Arkley have been involved in providing expensive gifts and trips to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, with Leo greasing the skids for their access to the justices. “For many months, the Committee has sought the voluntary cooperation of individuals and organizations who were reportedly involved in these incidents,” Durbin said. “While several have cooperated with the Committee’s investigation, Leonard Leo and Robin Arkley have outright stonewalled us. … Harlan Crow initially claimed he was willing to engage with the Committee, but he ultimately refused to negotiate beyond a limited offer that was completely insufficient.”
Republicans, predictably, threw a hissy fit and vowed retaliation. "None of us will support that," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina promised. They don’t need to: Democrats have a majority of members on the committee and can do it without them. “Sen. [Chuck] Grassley and I are working on subpoenas of our own,” Graham continued. Great. But Republicans don’t have the votes in committee to pass them.
In Thursday’s committee meeting, Durbin said the refusal of Leo, Crow, and Arkley to work with the committee suggests that they are trying to undermine the constitutional authority of the Senate panel and the Senate’s “institutional prerogatives.”
“They are not bit players in this crisis,” Durbin said. “And the information they hold is critical to understanding how individuals and groups with business before the court gained private access to the justices.”
Other committee Republicans piled on in defense of the three Republican megadonors and benefactors of Thomas and Alito, incidentally endorsing the appearance of corruption on the court.
Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said Democrats are trying to “cast doubt on this fundamental independent branch of government” with their investigation. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, denounced the Democrats’ arguments and called the investigation a “brazen and outrageous campaign” against the Supreme Court. “Y’all ought to be ashamed of yourself. Because you’re the ones who always profess how you’re defending our democracy,” Cotton railed. “You’re the ones undermining our democracy.”
Although he doesn’t have a vote on the subpoenas because he’s not on the Judiciary Committee, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is predictably outraged that Democrats are investigating part of the scheme he and Leo have crafted together to secure control of the federal judiciary, but in particular the Supreme Court.
“What [Durbin is] targeting here is private citizens, with no legislative purpose,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “I think it’s completely and totally inappropriate.” Of course McConnell doesn’t want the committee delving too deeply into Leo, the Federalist Society, and the dark money web that has secured the Supreme Court for conservatives. He’s at the very least adjacent to all the plotting, if not smack dab in the middle of it.
Good for Republicans, though. They’re making it absolutely clear to the American public that they’re on the side of the conservative Supreme Court, no matter how corrupt they might prove to be through these congressional investigations. Given just how unpopular the Supreme Court is with the American public, Republicans going all in with Thomas and Alito is only good for Democrats.
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