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Political Notebook

Thomas meets with Jan. 6 panel

Conservative activist Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was on Capitol Hill Thursday to be interviewed by the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, appeared on Thursday for a voluntary interview with the House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The committee has for months sought an interview with Thomas in an effort to know more about her role in trying to help former president Donald Trump overturn his election defeat. She texted with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin in the weeks after the election.

Thomas did not answer questions when she arrived on Capitol Hill for the interview or later when she briefly left for a break. But she did tell reporters she was looking forward to answering questions from the members of the committee.

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The testimony from Thomas was one of the remaining items for the panel as it eyes the completion of its work. The panel has already interviewed more than 1,000 witnesses and shown some of that video testimony in its eight hearings over the summer.

Thomas’s attorney, Mark Paoletta, said last week that Thomas had agreed to meet with the panel and is “eager to answer the committee’s questions to clear up any misconceptions about her work relating to the 2020 election.”

The extent of her involvement in the Capitol attack is unclear. In the days after the Associated Press and other news organizations called the presidential election for Biden, Thomas e-mailed two lawmakers in Arizona to urge them to choose “a clean slate of Electors” and “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.” The AP obtained the e-mails earlier this year under the state’s open records law.

She has said in interviews that she attended the initial pro-Trump rally the morning of Jan. 6 but left before Trump spoke and the crowds headed for the Capitol.

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Thomas, a Trump supporter long active in conservative causes, has repeatedly maintained that her political activities posed no conflict of interest with the work of her husband.

“Like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principles, and aspirations for America. But we have our own separate careers, and our own ideas and opinions too. Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work,” Thomas told the Washington Free Beacon in an interview published in March.

Justice Thomas was the lone dissenting voice when the Supreme Court ruled in January to allow a congressional committee access to presidential diaries, visitor logs, speech drafts and handwritten notes relating to the events of Jan. 6.

Ginni Thomas has been openly critical of the committee’s work, including signing onto a letter to House Republicans calling for the expulsion of Representatives Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois from the GOP conference for joining the Jan. 6 congressional committee.

Associated Press

Jurors in Barrack trial hear e-mails about UAE

NEW YORK — Prosecutors cracked open a trove of e-mails and other communications at a federal trial on Thursday that they say shows how the former chair of Donald Trump’s inaugural committee worked behind the scenes in 2016 to get the future president to embrace the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Some of the e-mail traffic was between Tom Barrack —accused of working at the direction of the UAE as a secret foreign agent — and Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager at the time. The exchanges focused in part over an energy policy speech by Trump in 2016.

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In one e-mail read to the jury by an FBI agent, Barrack complained to Manafort that an original draft of the speech didn’t mention either the UAE or Saudi Arabia, or the importance of their role in the Middle East.

“Wow. I’m just stunned by how bad this is,” the billionaire private equity manager wrote about the draft.

Manafort responded: “Send me an insert that works for our friends.”

The speech Trump gave ended up referring to the need to team with “our supportive Gulf allies” as part of a broader strategy to fight terrorism in the region. Afterward, Barrack received an e-mail from a UAE official congratulating him for doing a “great job.”

In other e-mails, Manafort assured those in the back-channel network that he would get Trump to tone down his anti-Muslim rhetoric and that he would set up face-to-face meetings between Trump and UAE and Saudi leaders.

Another Barrack e-mail indicated he had lobbied Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner on Manafort’s behalf to get Manafort the campaign manager post. Manafort was eventually convicted in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and later pardoned by Donald Trump.

Prosecutors say the communications demonstrate Barrack’s efforts to manipulate the Trump campaign and later his administration to advance the interests of the UAE. They say at the same time, the energy-rich Gulf state poured millions of dollars into business ventures operated by Barrack.

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Barrack, 75, has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

In his opening statements this week, defense attorney Steven Schachter insisted there was no evidence that Barrack ever took orders from the UAE or betrayed his country by becoming a covert agent.

“Tom Barrack is his own man,” the lawyer said.

Associated Press

Company that organized Trump speeches struggling with payments

A company that organized a lucrative series of post-White House paid speeches for former president Donald Trump is now struggling to pay vendors, investors, and employees, angering Trump allies who supported the effort.

The American Freedom Tour, which struck a multimillion-dollar deal with Trump after he left office, has lost two top executives and canceled events in a number of locations as it has failed to pay its bills, according to people familiar with the activities and documents obtained by The Washington Post. Its founder and owner, who has a history of bankruptcy filings, recently sought bankruptcy protection again.

The group has promised events in a number of locales but canceled them before they began and appears to be banking on a large event at Mar-a-Lago in December to turn its financial position around.

With speakers, affiliates, and investors all clamoring for their money, one of the people involved who did get paid was Trump, people close to the former president say. Some Trump advisers have warned against doing future events, though Trump has expressed interest.

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It’s not clear what that means for the tour’s advertised upcoming black-tie gala at Mar-a-Lago, with tickets starting at $10,000 a couple to spend time with Trump. The event includes a poolside reception and a formal ballroom dinner. Dinner and a photo with Trump costs $40,000, and a private library meeting with Trump is so pricey that it’s only listed as: “INQUIRE BELOW.” The company declined to say how much Trump is being paid for the event.

The company’s CEO, Brian Forte, declined to be interviewed for this article. A Trump spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

“The tour did have some unexpected scheduling issues over the summer that slowed things down, but we are working through it,” said Larry Ward, a spokesman for the company. “We are positioning the tour for greater strength and success going forward.”

Washington Post