Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve subpoenas for far right Supreme Court manipulators Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo on Thursday, marking a crucial step forward in the committee’s investigation into what government watchdogs say is a “full-blown corruption crisis” among Supreme Court justices.
The committee’s 11 Democrats voted for the subpoenas, which create a legal obligation for Crow and Leo to testify before the committee. Billionaire Crow and Federalist Society Co-Chair Leo have been the subjects of scrutiny in recent months (and years, by certain watchdog groups) for their strong influence over Supreme Court justices; Crow, for having provided Justice Clarence Thomas likely millions of dollars of undisclosed gifts over decades, and Leo, for his wide-ranging influence over the U.S. judicial system and personal role in the appointment of every sitting conservative justice on the Supreme Court bench.
Republicans walked out of the room during the vote, objecting to the move that Sen. Lindseay Graham (R-South Carolina) derided as a “jihad” against the court. In an attempt to obstruct the measure, Republicans on the committee filed 177 amendments to the subpoena legislation, and left the room when Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) would not allow votes on the amendments.
Durbin rejected Republican criticisms over issuing subpoenas for Crow and Leo, who have rejected previous requests to testify or account for their gifts and favors to Supreme Court justices.
“I’m only seeking subpoenas for two people who have refused to comply with this committee’s oversight request for months,” Durbin said, as Republicans on the committee — who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Crow — expressed fury over the vote.
Leo has vowed in a statement to dodge the subpoena. “Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have been destroying the Supreme Court; now they are destroying the Senate. I will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution,” said Leo, without whom the current far right ideology of the majority of the Supreme Court would likely be a shadow of what it is.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), a committee member who is outspoken on the issue of Supreme Court corruption, criticized Republicans for their attempts to interrupt the vote.
“You just watched every permutation of Republican obstruction: first, invoking the two-hour rule; second, trying to deny a quorum; third, interrupting the vote with points of order; fourth, a general walk-out,” Whitehouse wrote on social media. “It shows how *desperately* Republicans want to prevent Americans from seeing what’s been going on between the right-wing billionaires and the gift-taking justices. It has to be really bad to trigger that barrage of procedural weapons.”
Watchdog groups have praised the subpoenas, saying that they are much-needed to bring some form of accountability to people like Crow and Leo, the latter of whom is notorious for being the single most influential person in U.S. judicial politics.
“Thanks to billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow and matchmaker Leonard Leo, a full-blown corruption crisis has plagued our Supreme Court for months,” said Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone in a statement. “But despite growing calls for reform, Chief Justice Roberts has refused to act. With today’s subpoenas, the Judiciary Committee sent a strong message to Leonard Leo and other right-wing power brokers that the corruption on the Court must end.”
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