As you know, Ginni Thomas attended the “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6, 2021. That rally devolved into a raging throng that Donald Trump dispatched to sack and loot the US Capitol. The apparent goal was to pressure the vice president into actually stealing the election.
That Ginni Thomas was present is a BFD.
The former president had previously hoped the election would be decided by a Supreme Court stocked with three new Republican justices. Ginni Thomas, a major activist in GOP circles whose interests have risen to the Supreme Court, is Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife.
As you also know, Ginni Thomas sent Mark Meadows 29 text messages in the weeks leading up to the J6 insurrection. The Post reported last week she repeatedly pressed the White House chief of staff “to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of urgent text exchanges in the critical weeks after the vote.”
That Ginni Thomas was present is a BFD.
Those text messages came from the J6 committee, which had requested them from Mark Meadows. (There could be more text messages. The Post reported on 29 only.) On Monday, five days after the Post story, the J6 committee announced it was seeking a voluntary interview with Ginni Thomas. (The panel has done this with all J6-related witnesses, asking for testimony before compelling it.)
The texts show a few things.
One, that Ginni Thomas and Meadows were invested and involved in overturning the election. The former president’s inner circle was not “humoring” him, as the press corps told us. It was executing a plan.
What plan? To get Mike Pence to block certification, thus throwing the election to state legislatures whose delegates would reelect Trump.
A federal judge this week called that plan “a coup in search of a legal theory.” Enacting a plan whose illegality was obvious, he said, was “more likely than not” an attempt “to obstruct an official proceeding.”
Guess who appears to have been aware of the plan?
On Jan. 10, she texted Meadows: “We are living through what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams.” (My italics.)
Finally, Ginni Thomas was neck-deep in the brownfields of conspiracy theory. Another text to Meadows: “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc.) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”
Though Clarence and Ginni Thomas are two people, it’s hard to avoid thinking that if she’s a conspiracy theorist, he’s one too, if she knew about the Mike Pence plan, he did too. The appearance of such synergy, if not the fact of it, is why Justice Thomas is under intense scrutiny. Well, that plus all the other unethical things he’s done.
When news broke of the texts, I reconnected with Gabe again. “We need to ensure [Clarence Thomas’s] ethical behavior, or lack thereof, doesn't become the new model for judicial morality,” he said.
Now that we know more about Ginni Thomas' role in the J6 insurrection, can we say the Supreme Court is corrupted?
I think that's too strong a word to refer to the court as a whole, as it impugns the integrity of most of the other justices, who I believe are doing their level best to maintain the institution's integrity.
If not corrupted, what are we seeing?
We're seeing the integrity and impartiality of one justice being questioned due to his wife’s political activities. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a spouse having a job or being in politics.
As a person who lives in a fact-based world, it’s difficult to believe a justice's spouse would fall for ridiculous conspiracy theories and then, based on what we know, advance them to the highest levels.
My main concern is if we do nothing — on the J6 front in terms of not punishing the coup-doers and on the judicial ethics front (at the very least, we can assume the Thomases talked about some efforts to overturn the election) — this behavior is effectively condoned and we'll get more coup attempts and more justices with shitty morals.
"If we do nothing" leads to that familiar but tedious question -- what can be done? Clarence Thomas acts untouchable, because he is.
A few things, and though these might not seem as satisfactory as some would like, they're a start and can be ramped up as more comes out.
First, pressuring Chief Justice John Roberts is important.
He's got the respect and gravitas inside the building. Reminding him these ethical lapses reflect poorly on the Roberts court will compel him to privately push for Thomas to recuse on J6 cases or finish the Code of Conduct he's been rumored to be writing for three years.
Second, pressuring the other justices to respond to these lapses when they give talks to law schools, civic organizations and the like.
Six other justices have spouses. What would they do on J6 cases or in general if they were involved in the attempted coup?
Do they believe the Supreme Court needs an ethics code? What's a justice's responsibility to the public for explaining a decision to participate in a case where there's an apparent conflict?
Third, ensuring that Congress plays a role in keeping the drumbeat going. Right now, the House and Senate Judiciary Committees are planning hearings on judicial ethics. There are several bills that have been introduced this session or are about to be. These will keep the issue in the news, which is important, since no one knows when, say, the next round of Ginni texts or emails are coming out.
Ginni Thomas is neck-deep in conspiracy theory. Is her husband?
It's hard to say whether he believes the 2020 election was stolen or any other conspiracy theory that his wife might accept as fact.
I haven't seen anything from his Supreme Court votes or opinions over the last year and a half that suggest he's on Team Q.
Appearances are pretty damning. Much of the court's authority comes from the respect given to it. Some scholars are already pressing executive branches (federal and state) to ignore the court.
Yes, that's clearly coming.
The breakdown of norms is a hallmark of our era, and I'd put "ignoring a handful of folks in robes with no army" as on that list.
I'm not saying we should, but that seems to be where this is heading.
Some say just the threat of ignoring the court might be enough.
I'm not going to go that far. I think it's a slippery slope.
I would like to see Americans and their elected officials in Congress abide by the court's rulings. If the people don't like them, then elect new officials who will pass laws that can get around the rulings.
I gotta say, you were right when you told me: “My guess is that more is coming out – that she was in touch with Meadows, who’s been subpoenaed.” Is the J6 committee going to subpoena her?
Forget that she's married to Justice Thomas for a second. If a private citizen is texting the White House chief of staff about ways to subvert an election, the committee should subpoena that private citizen.
I don't know what the committee is going to do, but it should.
May I push back on your assertion that the court isn’t corrupt?
Thomas appears to at least tolerate belief in the 2020 election being stolen. He ruled in favor of insurrection, in essence, when he voted for executive privilege applying to Trump post-election.
I don't see a single vote in a single case suggesting the justice is an insurrectionist. I see someone who takes executive privilege to ridiculous ends and needs to familiarize himself with basic ethics rules, lest he further impugn his integrity and that of his institution.
I see an institution that has every opportunity to rule narrowly (the third branch of government should be the least powerful, after all) or take steps to build goodwill with the public but is continually failing.
But I'm not at a point where I'm shouting "treason.”
For me, this is an inflection point not because “Thomas is corrupt” but because over the last few years, Thomas has become the model of conservative jurisprudence. His coattails are a mile long.
Just think about all the former Thomas clerks who are now federal judges. We need to ensure his ethical behavior, or lack thereof, doesn't become the new model for judicial morality.
What would tell you we have ensured that?
When the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation feature ethics seminars as part of their regular programming. When Republicans in Congress join with Democrats in passing laws like the Supreme Court Ethics Act to ensure the judiciary updates its ethics guidelines.
Meanwhile, think long term, not short term, and don't expect an investigation much less prosecution of a Justice's spouse. Right?
Yes, I don't expect an investigation of Ginni Thomas.
Anything she'd turn over related to J6 would be used to help the cases against Meadows, John Eastman and possibly Cleta Mitchell.
But she'd get off scot-free.