Clarence Thomas Would've 'Ignored' Senate Invitation Over Gifts Scandal, Dick Durbin Says

The Senate Judiciary Committee chair has asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to testify about Thomas' undisclosed ties to a GOP billionaire.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Sunday defended his decision to invite Chief Justice John Roberts to testify on Supreme Court ethics rules following reports about Justice Clarence Thomas’ undisclosed acceptance of luxury gifts and real estate transactions.

Asked about why he didn’t call on Thomas to appear before the committee, Durbin told NBC’s “Meet The Press”: “I think I know what would happen to that invitation. It would be ignored.”

He added that Roberts is an “articulate, well-schooled man,” who probably would “do well” responding to senators’ questions.

In a letter Thursday, Durbin requested Roberts or another Supreme Court justice designated by him to testify at a public hearing next month regarding ethics reform for the court. He wrote there is precedent for sitting justices to appear before Congress, including most recently in October 2011.

“History is going to judge the Roberts’ court by his decision as to reform, and I think this is an invitation on May 2 for him to present it to the American people,” Durbin told NBC’s Chuck Todd.

Durbin has previously said he there’s no plan to subpoena Roberts if he declined to show up. The absence of Judiciary Committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as she recovers from shingles means Democrats would likely not have enough votes to compel Robert’s testimony.

Earlier this month, ProPublica reported Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, “accepted luxury trips virtually every year” from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow for more than two decades without reporting them. Following the report, Thomas said he was advised by unnamed associates that hospitality from “close personal friends” that didn’t interfere with the court’s business didn’t have to be disclosed.

The outlet also revealed a 2014 real estate deal in which Thomas sold properties in Georgia to Crow. Thomas’ mother still lives on one of the properties and doesn’t pay rent. Thomas is reportedly planning to amend his disclosure forms to include that deal, but hasn’t publicly commented on the transaction with his billionaire friend.

Congressional Republicans have urged Roberts to decline Durbin’s invitation.

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