Where Things Stand: New Report Reveals More Details Of Ginni Thomas’ Involvement In Election-Subverting Schemes

This is your TPM evening briefing.

The New York Times Magazine published a piece this afternoon that reveals new information about Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and the extent to which she was involved in Big Lie-related events leading up to, surrounding and following Jan. 6.

Ginni Thomas’ conservative activism has been eyebrow-raising for years, but in recent months we’ve seen several new in-depth reports that delve deeply into her work and the conflicts of interest they could present for Justice Thomas’ role on the high Court, especially in cases related to the Jan. 6 insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The New Yorker published a piece in January about Ginni Thomas’ various political activities surrounding the organization of a rally that preceded the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. That report, by Jane Mayer, also examined a letter she signed this past December from a group of conservatives urging Republicans to do something about the Jan. 6 Select Committee’s sprawling investigation into the Capitol attack. The letter described the probe as an “overtly partisan political persecution.”

The watchdog group American Oversight also published emails this month that revealed Ginni Thomas asked Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to join a weekly coalition meeting of conservatives with ties to a group she founded called Groundswell. She suggested that DeSantis’ office would be familiar with her because her husband has been in contact with the governor “on various things as of late.”

These are just a few examples of recent revelations about the extent of Ginni Thomas’ activism and the questions it raises about her husband’s duties on the high court. As many-a-pundit has noted, the newfound curiosity surrounding Ginni Thomas has in part revealed the lack of clear conflict of interest and recusal rules for justices on the Supreme Court. Currently there is no apparatus that forces recusal, leaving the decision up to individual justices — an unspoken norm governed mostly by precedent and individual Supreme Court justices’ interest in at least appearing non-partisan.

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The new NYT Magazine report goes even further than some of these recent reports, revealing some never-before reported information on Ginni Thomas. Here are three highlights:

The fake electors scheme: As the Jan. 6 committee continues to dig into the insurrection and the events leading up to the Capitol attack, we’ve learned new information about the fake electors scheme in recent months, especially after the committee revealed that ex-White House chief-of-staff Mark Meadows had a hand in the plot. Ginni Thomas did too, according to the new report. Per the Times, Ginni Thomas sits on the board of the political advocacy arm for the right-wing activist group Council for National Policy, called CNP Action. After the 2020 election, the group sent out an “action steps” memo that urged members to help challenge election results in three key states: Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

The group asked CNP Action members to reach out to Republican state-level lawmakers to appoint alternate Trump electors in states that President Biden had won. The scheme didn’t end up really going anywhere substantial for the broader Big Lie effort, but the Jan. 6 committee recently subpoenaed Republican state lawmakers and Trump campaign officials who were allegedly involved in the alternate electors plot, like Doug Mastriano, Kelli Ward and Mark Finchem.

The CNP Action document also encouraged members to file legal challenges to election results in battleground states, nodding specifically at the effort by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) to overturn results in Pennsylvania that had made its way to the high court and was ultimately rejected, twice. Justice Thomas issued a scathing dissent to the court’s final 6-3 decision to reject the case. “Echoing the arguments advanced by CNP Action, he wrote that legislatures have the constitutional authority to determine how federal elections are held, yet in 2020, ‘nonlegislative officials in various States took it upon themselves to set the rules instead,'” per the Times.

A Jan. 6 “peacemaking role”: It’s been reported that Ginni Thomas was involved in at least one group that organized the rally in D.C. ahead of the Jan. 6 insurrection — and even posted now-private comments on social media praising the “MAGA people” who were “STANDING UP” just before the protest turned into a violent attack on Congress. The New York Times Magazine reporters spoke to a Dustin Stockton of Women for America First, the group that held the permit for the Jan. 6 Ellipse rally. He told the Times that Ginni Thomas “played a peacemaking role between feuding factions of rally organizers,” in the Times words.

“The way it was presented to me was that Ginni was uniting these different factions around a singular mission on January 6,” Stockton told the Times. “That Ginni was involved made sense — she’s pretty neutral, and she doesn’t have a lot of enemies in the movement.”

John Eastman and Steve Bannon ties: The new Times report also digs into Ginni and Clarence Thomas’ ties to John Eastman, the lawyer who attempted to advise the Trump White House into acting on debunked beliefs that the former Veep Mike Pence had the authority to overturn the election results. Eastman has been subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee and a federal court ruled against Eastman’s defiance of said subpoena for communications between himself and the White House. Eastman once clerked for Justice Thomas at the Supreme Court, and the new Times report revealed he has remained a close friend of the couple’s.

As the Times notes, in December 2020, Eastman went on Steve Bannon’s podcast “War Room” and urged the Supreme Court to intervene in various legal challenges to the 2020 election. Bannon, of course, heartily agreed and has remained a prolific supporter of Trump’s Big Lie for some time.

While it’s hardly a surprise at this point, Ginni Thomas also has close ties to Bannon. Ginni Thomas helped found the aforementioned group Groundswell with Bannon’s support, per the Times.

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