Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife serves on the board of a right-wing activist group that pushed Republican state lawmakers to appoint “fake” electors and challenge the Electoral College result, the New York Times reports, adding to growing concerns over Ginni Thomas’s influence on the Supreme Court and the whether the 6-3 conservative court is too politicized.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, right, and wife Virginia Thomas arrive for a State Dinner at … [+] the White House on Sept. 20, 2019.
Thomas’ wife, Ginni, serves on the board of C.N.P. Action, the political advocacy arm of the right-wing Council for National Policy, which the Times reports circulated an “action steps” document after the 2020 presidential election that advocated for challenging the election results in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
C.N.P. Action told its members to “pressure” GOP state lawmakers to appoint alternate slates of electors in states that President Joe Biden won, in an effort to get Congress to recognize those electors over the Democratic ones, claiming there was “historical, legal precedent” for doing so.
The Times notes the effort “would have almost certainly” gone before the Supreme Court if the GOP lawmakers had succeeded.
C.N.P. Action broadly pushed for members to challenge battleground state results, the Times reports, noting one such effort—a Pennsylvania GOP lawmaker’s effort to overturn that state’s results—ultimately went before the Supreme Court, where it was rejected.
When the Supreme Court then separately rejected a full hearing on that Pennsylvania lawsuit after the election, Thomas issued a dissent that the Times notes “echo[ed]” C.N.P. Action’s arguments, saying the court not taking up the case “invite[s] further confusion and erosion of voter confidence.”
The Times piece also added to previous reporting on Ginni Thomas’ involvement with the January 6 rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol building, reporting she played a “peacemaking role” between different groups involved with the rally.
The Times report comes as Thomas and his wife have come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, following a recent New Yorker piece on Ginni’s political activities and her signing a December letter that slammed the House’s January 6 committee as an “overtly partisan political persecution.” Watchdog group American Oversight also published emails in early February showing Ginni had emailed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office and told them her husband “has been in contact with [DeSantis] too on various things of late.” Ginni’s political involvement has long been known and a 2019 meeting between her and then-President Donald Trump drew scrutiny. Critics have become more focused on her potential influence on her husband more recently, however, as the 6-3 conservative Supreme Court has taken up an increasing number of major cases on partisan topics like abortion, guns and immigration. Even aside from the Thomases, public trust in the Supreme Court has hit record lows because of the public’s perception the court is politicized, and Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch was recently criticized for speaking at the partisan Federalist Society alongside major GOP figures like DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence. His speech was closed to the press.
Justice Thomas has hit back against suggestions the court is politicized, saying in a September speech he believes it’s a misconception. “If [the media thinks] you’re anti-abortion or something personally, they think that that’s the way you always will come out,” Thomas said. “They think you become like a politician. And I think that’s a problem.”
What To Watch For
Whether Justice Thomas will recuse himself from any upcoming cases that could be a conflict of interest. The court will soon hear a challenge to affirmative action policies backed by a group on whose board Ginni also sits, which has sparked calls for him to recuse, and the New Yorker reports she has ties to the leader of a group that’s brought two other upcoming cases to the court. The Washington Post notes that while justices are supposed to recuse themselves in cases that could pose a conflict, there’s no actual enforcement mechanism requiring them to do so. Legal scholars have advocated for the high court to take up a code of conduct that would impose a process for preventing conflicts of interest, but the court has not yet said whether they intend to do so.
Though the “fake electors” plot was known at the time it happened, the strategy—which resulted in seven false slates of GOP electors in states Biden won—has resurfaced in recent months, after the House January 6 committee released documents in December showing former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows was involved in discussions about the plot. The committee has issued subpoenas to many of the false electors in an attempt to learn more about the origins of the plot and the Trump campaign’s involvement. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told CNN the Justice Department is also investigating the scheme, after multiple states’ attorneys general referred the certificates to the DOJ and asked them to look into it.
The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas (New York Times)
Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court? (New Yorker)
Legal Scholars Push For Supreme Court Ethics Code As Gorsuch And Thomas Come Under Fire (Forbes)