That Virginia “Ginni” Thomas — the conservative activist, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and key figure in the push to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election — should testify before the Jan. 6 committee probing that insurrection is without question. The only outstanding issue seems to be how she does it: voluntarily or via subpoena.
The committee is reportedly torn on this last point, with some fearing the political consequences of summoning the wife of the court’s most senior associate justice, who is also a staunch conservative revered by Republicans. Some committee members seem to think simply reaching out to request voluntary cooperation is enough.
But the consequences to the committee’s ability to get to the bottom of what led to the insurrection, and the threat to democracy if it fails to do so, are much greater. And after more than a year of investigation, there is little time to waste. The panel must subpoena Ginni Thomas now.
Thomas, who for decades has been deeply involved with conservative groups (many of which have been directly involved in cases before the nation’s highest court — but that’s another very problematic matter), has done nothing to indicate a willingness to voluntarily help the committee’s work.
That follows the precedent set by a number of people in Trump’s circle — including former chief of staff Mark Meadows, with whom Thomas exchanged at least 29 text messages, with her urging him to stop the certification of President Biden in the weeks after his election victory. After initially providing some documents to the committee, Meadows refused to do more.
Some of the messages from Thomas defy reason and embrace the claims made by the most conspiratorial fringes of the right wing.
“Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition,” she texted Meadows.
If she weren’t married to a Supreme Court justice, Thomas would still be a legitimate target for the committee. But the fact that she is only makes the case stronger. What is far more troubling is Thomas’s prominent role as a conduit during those weeks — and perhaps long before — between the White House and the very judicial body Trump appealed to in his despotic efforts to hold onto power.
In one of her text messages, Thomas claimed to have been comforted by her “best friend.” The first question that she needs to answer, under oath, is whether she was referring to her husband, who participated in the court’s consideration of Trump’s election challenge as well as Trump’s challenge to the committee’s efforts to obtain White House documents, despite his wife’s position in Trump’s orbit.
They also need to question Thomas’ participation in Trump’s rally, which led up to the attack on the US Capitol — a participation Ginni Thomas so far has explained away as brief because she “got cold.”
The committee also needs a clear understanding of who else Thomas was in contact with before and on the day of the insurrection. The revelation of the more than seven-hour gap in White House records detailing Trump’s whereabouts and communications that day only underscores the committee’s need to leave no stone unturned.
Yes, compelling the wife of a Supreme Court justice and conservative icon will draw the ire of some Republicans, who stand ready to give blowback to the committee’s work. It may create some discomfort on the committee itself. But that is the job they signed on to do.
It is commendable that the bipartisan panel has already procured countless documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses, and set a deposition schedule that keeps them busy almost every day of the week. But this is one witness they cannot handle with kid gloves. Thomas must be compelled to cooperate or face the legal consequences of not doing so.
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