Justice Clarence Thomas under increasing pressure as senator demands he recuse himself from any cases related to the Jan. 6 attack

Oregon’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Ron Wyden, lashed out at U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday, insinuating that he is “corrupt.”

“In light of new reporting from numerous outlets, Justice Thomas’ conduct on the Supreme Court looks increasingly corrupt,” Wyden said in a statement. He called on Thomas, one of the most conservative justices on the Supreme Court, to recuse himself from any cases related to the Jan. 6 investigation of the insurrection against the U.S. Capitol. He also said Thomas should not be involved in any cases related to the 2024 election if former President Donald Trump runs again.

“Extraordinary conflicts of interest on the nation’s highest court regarding domestic terrorists attacking democracy and people scheming to overturn an election demand a clear response from anybody who’s taken an oath to uphold the rule of law,” Wyden said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle.

This is the first time Wyden, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has criticized a Supreme Court justice, Wyden spokesman Hank Stern told the Capital Chronicle. Stern said it followed several news reports about Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas.

On Thursday the Washington Post revealed that Ginni Thomas had repeatedly pressed Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in text messages to overturn the 2020 election results at a time when Trump and his allies said they would try to get the Supreme Court to negate the election results.

According to the news report, on Nov. 10, after media organizations said Joe Biden would win the presidency, Ginni Thomas wrote to Meadows: “‘Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.’”

Ginni Thomas attended a Trump rally near the White House on Jan. 6, 2021, shortly before ralliers breached the U.S. Capitol . During the rally, Trump urged the crowd to march to Congress and pressure lawmakers not to confirm Biden’s win. News reports have said the House select committee investigating the insurrection has evidence that Trump and some of his associates may have engaged in a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

There have been stories for months questioning Thomas’ conservative activism and her influence on her husband.

“Judges are obligated to recuse themselves when their participation in a case would create even the appearance of a conflict of interest. A person with an ounce of common sense could see that bar is met here,” Wyden said in a statement.

Emily Flitter, a New York Times reporter, said in a tweet on Friday that Thomas has recused himself before. “When his son worked for Wachovia, he stepped back from a slew of bank-regulatory cases that reached the Court. NOT doing it now looks like breaking precedent,” Flitter said in the tweet.

Thomas was the lone dissenter in January when the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s bid to withhold documents from the investigating panel.

“Justice Thomas participated in cases related to Donald Trump’s efforts to rig and then overturn the 2020 election, while his wife was pushing to do the same,” Wyden said.

Clarence Thomas was released Friday morning from a week-long hospital stay for an infection and did not respond to reporters’ requests seeking comment on this latest story about his wife.


Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: GOP's Kevin McCarthy rejects calls for Clarence Thomas to recuse from Jan. 6 cases despite wife's involvement

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Lawmakers urge DEA to allow terminally ill to use psilocybin

A bipartisan group of six U.S. lawmakers, including one from Oregon, have called on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to allow terminal patients to use psilocybin to ease anxieties or depression.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Portland, a longtime advocate of decriminalizing drugs, spearheaded the letter sent this week to the agency’s administrator, Anne Milgram.

“Research demonstrates that psilocybin provides immediate, substantial and sustained relief from debilitating anxiety and depression in individuals with terminal illnesses,” the lawmakers wrote on Tuesday. “Individuals with advanced cancer that are also suffering from treatment-resistant anxiety and/or depression have been found to experience significant reductions in both anxiety and depression, and improvements in mood, following a single guided session of psilocybin-assisted therapy, with no safety concerns or clinically significant adverse effects.”

The agency has classified psilocybin as a Schedule 1 drug, which means it has no accepted medical benefit and has a high potential for abuse. Cannabis, heroin, LSD and peyote are also Schedule 1 drugs. The letter didn’t ask the agency to change its designation; rather it said the DEA should essentially turn a blind eye to its use by terminally ill patients.

The agency has blocked the use of psilocybin by patients of a Seattle clinic that specializes in alternative treatments, the letter said. The lawmakers said magic mushrooms should be allowed under Right-To-Try laws, which allow the use of experimental drugs in clinical trials.

Oregon and 40 other states and the federal government have Right-To-Try laws.

“We therefore urge you to take quick action to ensure that the DEA follows duly enacted RTT law and accommodates constituents with terminal illnesses in receiving psilocybin for therapeutic use,” the letter said.

U.S. Reps. Don Bacon, R-Wisconsin, Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, Andy Biggs, R-Wisconsin, Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Dean Philips, D-Minnesota, and Madeleine Dean, D-Pennsylvania, also signed the letter.

DEA officials in Washington didn’t respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved dozens of clinical studies considering psilocybin to treat depression or symptoms from Alzheimers or Parkinsons disease.

In 2020, Oregon voters approved using psilocybin in mental health therapy in clinics; the Oregon Health Authority is crafting rules to put that program into place.

Oregon also has a tradition of palliative care, Blumenauer said.

“We have a long tradition in Oregon of giving end-of-life patients access to choose from a full variety of treatment options,” Blumenauer said in a statement to the Capital Chronicle. “These patients deserve to be able to discuss treatments with their doctors that researchers are finding provide immediate, substantial, and sustained relief from anxiety and depression for people battling terminal illness.”

Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, which has led research into psilocybin, found in a 2016 study that psilocybin gave patients “substantial and sustained decreases in depression and anxiety.”


Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Oregon deploying 1,200 National Guard to help overwhelmed hospitals

In less than a week, Gov. Kate Brown has more than doubled the number of Oregon National Guard members being deployed to Oregon hospitals.

“Our hospitals are under extreme pressure,” Brown said in a tweet on Wednesday. “Fueled by the omicron variant, current hospitalizations are over 700 and daily Covid-19 case counts are alarmingly high.”

She said in the tweet she was adding 700 National Guard members to the 500 mobilized last Friday.

Brown decided to increase the deployment following an update from the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Military Department, Elizabeth Merah, Brown’s press secretary, said in an email.

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Since the governor’s announcement that there would be an initial deployment of up to 500 Oregon National Guard members, the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Military Department have been working with the hospital systems to monitor ongoing need and determine additional deployments as necessary,” Merah wrote. “Through this collaboration, it became clear that additional support was necessary.”

Officials at the Oregon Health Authority didn’t respond to a request for comment by Wednesday late afternoon.

Hospitalizations have skyrocketed since the beginning of the year. On Jan. 3, 498 people with Covid-19 were hospitalized in Oregon. That number jumped to 756 on Wednesday, a 50% increase in just over a week. The tally of patients with Covid-19 in intensive care jumped from 104 on Jan. 3 to 146 on Wednesday, a rise of 40%. In northwestern Oregon, only 2% of regular adult beds are available, and in western Oregon from Benton, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties to the California border, only 3% of intensive care beds are free.

The 1,200 soldiers will be deployed in Oregon hospitals by the end of the month, according to Ursulla Bischoff, chief of civic engagement with the Oregon Military Department.

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The peak in the current surge of omicron cases is expected by Jan. 27, based on the latest forecast by Peter Graven at Oregon Health & Science University. He predicted that more than 1,600 patients with Covid will need a hospital bed then. That compares with the peak in hospitalizations during the delta surge this summer: They topped 1,200 in early September, causing some hospitals to run out of beds on certain days.

The deployment will include just over 50 hospitals around the state, from Asante Ashland Community Hospital in Ashland to Curry General Hospital in Gold Beach and Good Shepherd Health Care System in Hermiston to Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day. The deployment includes just over 15 hospitals in Portland. The first 500 guard members will be on the job by next Tuesday, Bischoff said.

Most of the soldiers are volunteers and include members of both the Oregon Air Guard and Army Guard. Some also were part of the mobilization last year of 1,500 soldiers.

Though the hospitals themselves didn’t ask for the help, they welcomed it.

“We’re incredibly grateful,” David Northfield, a spokesman for the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, told the Capital Chronicle. “The number of hospitalizations are not what they were yet for the peak of the delta surge but they’re creeping up and we’re still in the midst of a severe staffing shortage.”

Besides the shortage, Oregon hospitals are still strapped with patients ready for discharge who have no place to go because there isn’t enough staff in long-term care facilities and skilled nursing homes.

The Oregon Health Authority said last week it was hiring 1,000 critical care staff to help nursing teams around the state. The soldiers will be filling administrative, cleaning, transport and logistical roles, just as they did last year when they were called up to help with vaccinations and then worked in hospitals between August through December.

The guard provided really important support,” Northfield said. “They were changing beds, they were working in food service, they were checking people in – they were doing things that clinical people had to be doing because of the staffing shortage. When they showed up, it freed them up to return to the clinical work that they’re trained to do.”

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.

Overwhelming majority of Kaiser Permanente union members vote to strike

An overwhelming majority of nurses, physician assistants, lab specialists and others have voted to strike at Kaiser Permanente.

Nine out of 10 Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals participated in the days-long vote, with 96% endorsing a walkout.

Shane Burley, spokesman for the union, called the endorsement unprecedented.

“I've never seen a strike authorization vote like this," Burley told the Capital Chronicle. “It's astounding."

The union represents 3,400 employees at Kaiser Permanente, which has two hospitals and clinics in the Portland area as well as clinics in McMinnville and the Salem area.

Burley said the union hopes the vote will spur Kaiser to finalize a new contract to replace one that expired Sept. 30.

For a strike to happen, the union has to set a date for a walkout, giving Kaiser 10 days notice. The earliest the union could strike would be Oct. 22.

In February, the union called for a strike of technicians at the St. Charles Health System in central Oregon. After nine days, the two sides agreed to a proposal by a federal mediator and the technicians returned to work.

Burley said some of those workers won raises of 70%.

At Kaiser, the union is asking for raises around 3 to 4%, He said Kaiser has proposed 1%.

Arlene Peasnall, senior vice president of human resources at Kaiser Permanente, released a statement following the union vote.

We strongly believe that differences in bargaining are best worked out at the bargaining table, and we have a 24-year history of union partnership which proves that point," the statement said. “We will continue to work collaboratively with OFNHP to reach an agreement that meets the interests of both parties."

Kaiser Permanente cared for the first hospitalized Covid-19 patient in Oregon. It's not clear whether any are in its hospitals now.

“In the event of any kind of work stoppage, our facilities will be staffed by our physicians along with trained and experienced managers and contingency staff," Kaiser said in its statement.

The last time workers at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon walked out was in 1988, Burley said.

Besides the wage increase, the union is worried about a Kaiser proposal to create a two-tier system in which new employees would start at a lower rate. Burley said over time that would have a “disastrous effect on the entire industry" by bringing down wages.

Kaiser Permanente also faces potential walkouts among tens of thousands of workers in four other states where union members have voted for a strike.

In Oregon, Burley said the federation plans to keep negotiating.

Oregon Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Oregon Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Les Zaitz for questions: info@oregoncapitalchronicle.com. Follow Oregon Capital Chronicle on Facebook and Twitter.