Ginni Thomas texts leave GOP lawmakers scrambling
Ginni Thomas’s text messages to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol have sparked questions over the extent of her activism within the GOP.
It’s also left Republican lawmakers grappling with how to respond to Thomas and her husband, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Thomas sent a total of 21 text messages to Meadows urging him to find a way to keep former President Trump in office.
Her efforts may have gone beyond her messages to Meadows. NBC News reported that Thomas also reached out to an aide with the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, asking for its members to go “out in the streets.”
A Republican Study Committee aide disputed that characterization, but in doing so acknowledged the existence of an exchange with Thomas: “It’s a misleading description of a single departed staffer’s recounting of an email exchange from 15 months ago,” the aide said.
Thomas has been a regular presence in conservative activism circles for years. But her activities were not widely questioned until recently, when a New Yorker profile and the subsequent release of the text messages highlighted her involvement with “Stop the Steal” groups and suggestions of avenues to try to overturn the election.
Her contact with Republicans in support of Trump is also placing scrutiny on her husband, who is facing growing calls from Democrats to recuse himself from cases related to the Capitol riot. Many Republicans see the Supreme Court as their best chance for blocking the House investigation into the attack, underlining his importance.
It also seems increasingly possible that Ginni Thomas could be called to testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“Based on the evidence we have in our possession, I feel very confident with inviting her to the committee, and if she refuses, issuing a subpoena,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the select committee, told CBS this week.
Thomas’s texts included shoutouts to Reps. Louie Gohmert (Texas) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.), two of the conservative Republicans identified by Stop the Steal organizer Ali Alexander as being central to the effort, as well as mentions of well-known conservative Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Chip Roy (Texas).
In one text message to Meadows on Nov. 6, 2020, Thomas expressed frustration that members of Congress were not doing more to support Trump: “House and Senate guys are pathetic too… only 4 GOP House members seen out in street rallies with grassroots… Gohmert, Jordan, Gosar, and Roy.”
Many Republican members of Congress are familiar with Thomas, but they did not elaborate on whether she sent them the same kinds of messages about overturning the election that she did to Meadows in the period between the 2020 election and Jan. 6 insurrection.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), who was chair of the House Freedom Caucus at the time, told reporters that he could not remember if he had text messaged or emailed with Thomas, saying that their relationship was not very close.
“I may have talked to her one time, not anything specific,” said Gohmert. The Washington Post reported that Thomas forwarded material to Meadows that she said she got from Gohmert’s chief of staff.
Roy called Thomas a “dear friend,” but he ultimately took a far different attitude toward the Stop the Steal efforts than she did by objecting to seating House members from states with election disputes. It was a statement on Roy’s part to criticize a plan by his colleagues to object to certifying the Electoral College results.
“I’m not going to characterize whatever private conversations I’ve had with Ginni,” Roy said. He added that Thomas “has engaged in defense of her country for years,” criticizing calls for her husband to be impeached.
While some on the Jan. 6 committee refused to comment on Thomas, others have been open about a need to hear from her.
“We’ve interviewed more than 750 people, and we want to hear from everybody who has something to say. And she obviously interacted frequently with the president’s chief of staff and was actively involved with the effort to overturn the election. So speaking as one member, I think it’s important that we hear from her,” Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) told reporters Monday.
Raskin pushed back on Republican arguments minimizing her activism.
“Well, you know, look, she has as much First Amendment right as anybody else in the country to advance her political views, but she has no more right than anybody else in the country to engage in coups and insurrections, so I’m interested in exactly what she was doing,” he said.
In Clarence Thomas’s three decades on the bench, he has never stepped aside from a case due to a real or perceived conflict of interest resulting from his wife’s political activities.
He declined to recuse himself from numerous pro-Trump legal challenges that contested the 2020 results. And earlier this year, he cast the lone dissenting vote from a Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for the Jan. 6 panel to obtain Trump White House records.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) was the latest lawmaker Tuesday morning to call for his impeachment, while another 22 progressive lawmakers issued a letter calling for him to recuse himself from any Jan. 6 cases.
But Republicans have argued that the Thomases’ work can be separate.
“We were told, despite Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s husband — his activities, that it was absolutely wrong to presume the feelings of a spouse on to a justice,” Gohmert told The Hill.
“And so, I think what we’re seeing is absolute hypocrisy from those who are calling for his impeachment. I think it will do tremendous damage to the advances of women. Because it’s saying if you’re a conservative woman, you got to be back in the kitchen barefoot.”
Biggs likewise called her “an independent person.”
“She’s living her life. She has her opinions,” he said. “They don’t necessarily coincide in his opinions. There’s no indication that they have any influence on Justice Thomas at all.”
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