Opinion

How dangerous is Justice Clarence Thomas' wife?

A Supreme Court justice's wife wanted to keep Trump illegitimately in office. How much did her husband know?

Earlier this spring, conservative activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, told the Washington Free Beacon that while she and her husband "share many of the same ideals, principals, and aspirations for America," they have their own "separate careers, and our own ideas and opinions, too. Clarence doesn't discuss his work with me, and I don't involve him in my work."

As more comes out about Ginni Thomas' actions in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, some pundits are questioning whether she kept everything she was doing from Justice Thomas. Texts turned over to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack show that Ginni Thomas was texting with then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows about ways to keep former President Donald Trump in office, writing in one message, "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." No evidence has ever been produced by anyone of widespread election fraud.

The Washington Post reported last week that it obtained emails Ginni Thomas sent to two Republican lawmakers in Arizona after the state was called for President Biden. She told them to "stand strong in the face of political and media pressure," saying they had the "power to fight back against fraud" and could "ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen." One of the lawmakers, state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, is married to an associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, who considers Justice Thomas a mentor.

Eroding trust in the Supreme Court

In January, Justice Thomas was the only member of the Supreme Court to say he would have granted Trump's request to block White House documents from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack; a month earlier, Ginni Thomas signed a letter calling the committee's work an "overly partisan political persecution." Knowing this, several Democratic lawmakers signed their own letter asking Justice Thomas why he didn't recuse himself from cases connected to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 probe, and The Boston Globe's editorial board wrote that if the Supreme Court wants to restore its reputation as being apolitical, Chief Justice John Roberts should "answer the call of Democratic legislators to create a Supreme Court code of ethical conduct" and compel Justice Thomas to sit out such cases.

Ginni Thomas attempted to change the outcome of the election while "armed with nothing more than far-right conspiracy theories and outlandish lies," the editorial board said. In a poll conducted last September, before the extent of Ginni Thomas' involvement in spreading false election claims was known, a Gallup poll found that approval of the Supreme Court dropped to 40 percent, a new low. Something needs to be done to reverse this, The Boston Globe editorial board said, especially since Roberts "no longer has the luxury of assuming his fellow justices will behave ethically. And Thomas clearly has not."

Resignation, not recusal

Lawyer Jess Coleman went a step further, tweeting that now is the time for Democrats to "unanimously call for Clarence Thomas' resignation. Not recusals. Resignation." The goal is not to have the justice actually resign, Coleman continued, but rather "to discredit the conservative movement and to put the GOP on defense. This is how you win long-term." Calling for his resignation "puts down a marker," Coleman added. "If he doesn't resign (likely), it may create momentum for broader reforms, like court packing. By staying silent and assuming defeat, however, you send a signal that the status-quo is acceptable."

An obvious symmetry

Slate's Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern aren't buying Ginni Thomas' assertion that she doesn't talk about her conservative activism with Justice Thomas. In an article titled "Clarence and Ginni Thomas are Telling Us Exactly How the 2024 Coup Will Go Down," Lithwick and Stern write that the "symmetry between Ginni and Clarence Thomas' work has never been more obvious. While Clarence fought to give state legislatures the constitutional authority to reject election results, Ginni lobbied state legislators to do exactly that." A person with a passing interest in the matter "might assume they were working in tandem, with Clarence handling the law and Ginni working on the political side," Lithwick and Stern said. "They aren't particularly subtle about it."

The writers think it's clear after reading Ginni Thomas' emails and Justice Thomas' opinions that "the 2024 coup attempt will go down because it's identical to the 2020 coup attempt: If a Democrat prevails, red state officials will question the legitimacy of the results, giving state legislatures an opportunity to throw them out and declare the Republican to be the real winner."

Just not that important

Conservative Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker is focusing on how Ginni Thomas' actions reflect on her husband. She believes Ginni Thomas "deserves the media fire" now coming her way because "she has asked for it — time and time again — by being outrageous, by nurturing conspiracies, by being Stephen K. Bannon's acolyte, and encouraging the MAGA fringe." While Ginni Thomas is an activist known in conservative D.C. circles, Parker said there's one thing she clearly doesn't grasp.

"[H]er biggest mistake is that she thinks she's important," Parker wrote. "She is not. Her husband is. By her words and actions, she has brought doubt to her husband's judicial integrity. She has diminished his hard-won gravitas." One lesson that has been learned by "wiser spouses of important men and women" is that "it isn't about you," Parker added. "Stand down and let your better half do the job."

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