Progressives on Monday repeated calls for a federal investigation into U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, after the judge unilaterally granted a request to shield Sen. Lindsey Graham from a subpoena regarding the 2020 election.
Thomas, who handles emergency requests filed in Georgia, temporarily blocked the subpoena, which was issued by the Fulton County district attorney and called on the South Carolina Republican senator to answer questions about phone calls he made to Georgia election officials after the election.
The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled last week that Graham should be required to testify before a grand jury about the phone calls, in which the senator allegedly asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger if he could reject certain absentee ballots to secure a more favorable outcome for then-President Donald Trump.
Thomas has faced calls to recuse himself from all cases related to the 2020 election because his wife contacted White House officials and Republican lawmakers in at least two other states following the election, asking them to help reverse Trump's loss.
Thomas' Monday ruling is a temporary stay, and the Supreme Court may act in the case again later this week and may rule that Graham must testify.
Critics said, however, that the justice's ruling indicates the kind of conflict of interest that that he has been accused of as his wife's involvement in spreading the "Big Lie" that the election was "stolen" from Trump.
"Clarence Thomas should not be ruling on any 2020 election-related case given his wife's behavior," said Emily C. Singer, a reporter at The American Independent. "Period. Full stop."
While Thomas' decision "doesn't really signal any cause for concern in terms of getting Sen. Graham before the Special Purpose Grand Jury eventually," added Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, "the optics for the court are less than ideal to say the least."
The ruling sparked renewed outrage from groups that advocate for the expansion of the Supreme Court.
"This out of control Supreme Court must be reined in," said Demand Justice, which advocates for the expansion of the high court.
Grassroots group Stand Up America called the unilateral decision "an affront to justice and democracy."
"Once again, Justice Thomas is attempting to throw up a roadblock to investigations into the criminal conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 election," said Christina Harvey, the group's executive director. "If the court is to ever restore its credibility, it must be held to the same ethical standards as lower courts and four seats must be added to counterbalance the power of shameless, unethical partisans like Justice Thomas."