Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, wanted to “target” the “most questionable” precincts in Virginia with an anti-voter fraud campaign, according to an October 2016 email exchange she had with a prominent voter fraud alarmist and other conservative activists.
The emails were made public Friday in the litigation over a sensational report released by the group of the alarmist, J. Christian Adams, who also served on President Trump’s short-lived voter fraud commission.
Even Adams was skeptical of the idea — which was also being pushed by a conservative media consultant, Demos Chrissos — but not necessarily because he thought it would cross into the realm of illegal voter intimidation.
“It is possible to do without violating federal law if done correctly,” Adams wrote. “It is NOT possible to do without unleashing a leftist whirlwind that will be designed to boomerang on us and will JUICE leftwing turnout but [sic] threatening voter suppression (a made up term with no basis in law).”
Adams cited the 2014 Mississippi Senate race, where he apparently represented GOP candidate Chris McDaniel, who lost in a run-off to then Sen. Thad Cochran (R), according to the October 2016 emails made public Friday. (McDaniel at the time claimed he lost due to Democrats who voted for his opponent.)
“I saw what they did to us when it was announced there would be polling place monitors,” Adams wrote. “They converted it into a turnout asset.”
Adams, who for years has threatened local election officials with lawsuits to pressure them to more aggressively purge their voter rolls, is being sued for two reports his group, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, released alleging mass voter fraud in Virginia. The case was brought by individuals identified in the reports as noncitizen illegal voter registrants but who were in fact citizens, as well as by the Richmond chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
The emails were made public through a request by the plaintiffs in the case that they be allowed to re-open their deposition of Adams, as they accused of him of withholding emails in discovery about which they would have liked to question him.
Among those emails was the October 2016 exchange with Thomas and other conservative activists, wherein “Defendant Adams and others discussed tactics for deterring voter fraud, including what tactics may or may not violate federal voter intimidation laws (including one of the laws at issue in this litigation),” the plaintiffs said in their request Friday.
According to the emails, Thomas reached out to Adams and other conservative activists, referencing Adams’ “Superb” report, to get their feedback on a “practical” and possibly “Awesome” idea. The idea was placing signs in “as many polling places in VA” that would list “the laws people may break if they do voter fraud.” Thomas suggested a “digital ad” as well.
One of the recipients, Mike Thompson, of the powerhouse conservative PR firm CRC Public Relations, said that the only “operation” in Virginia capable of executing such a flier campaign was the Republican party. Adams scoffed that the “odds of the VA GOP doing this are close to zero.”
Chrissos, the media consultant, wasn’t ready to let the idea go. He suggested that they should consider targeting not just Virginia, but “other battleground states where the potential for non citizen voting is high.”
He went on to complain that that if “the other side had what we have, they would not only have signs, they would have the political support of the DOJ and union thugs right beside them.” He referenced Bikers for Trump, who drew scrutiny for acting as security between protesters and supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump at his campaign rallies.
Chrissos suggested working on legal guidelines for the effort and said that if “someone gets thrown out or forced to leave, then there needs to be a swat team that comes in and gets them back on the premises.”
He also suggested that the signs be written in English and in Spanish.
Thomas, meanwhile, asked about the possibility of using an outside group — such as the Virginia based PAC Middle Resolution — that could “target precincts most questionable.”
Replying to Chrissos, Adams gave his interpretation of the Voting Rights Act provision barring voter intimidation. He also referenced his Justice Department work on the Black Panthers case, which concerned the conduct of New Black Panthers activists who were video taped outside polling place in 2008. Adams got conservative acclaim when he quit the Department claiming that the Obama administration had backed down from fully prosecuting the activists because the administration was biased against white victims. In the October 2016 emails, Adams explained why he thought anti-voter fraud fliers would increase turnout on the left and thus “boomerang on us.”
Asked by TPM about his concerns of juicing “leftwing turnout” and whether his goal, in his anti-fraud efforts, was electing Republicans, Adams said in an email Friday night that he was explaining “what has happened empirically.”
“I didn’t have any goal in this particular instance as other people initiated a question of me,” Adams said. “I described factually what happens. Why would I describe that? Because facts matter.”
Adams also told TPM that he was “looking forward to doing a story about your role in this case.”
“The discovery revealed some quite interesting involvement for a ‘reporter,'” he said.
The October 2016 exchange was not the only example in the emails made public Friday of Thomas’ efforts to collaborate with Adams to hype up the prevalence of voter fraud. In a set of emails from earlier that October, Thomas asked Adams if he would like to give a briefing on “election integrity” to Groundswell, an under-the-radar group that includes her and other far-right figures on the right, who meet regularly to discuss messaging.
Adams appeared ready to take her up on the invitation, and suggested he discuss “how the Republicans are incapable of doing anything on the issue because they, well, are Republicans.”
Asked by Thomas what he’d like his talk to be titled, Adams suggested “Virginia Noncitizen Voters, the state cover up and the Republican response.”
Read the plaintiffs’ motion and the set of October 20 emails below: