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ANALYSIS: Liberal Pressure Campaign To Oust Justice Thomas So Far Has Little Impact

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Mary Rooke Staff Writer
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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is facing renewed pressure to recuse, resign or face impeachment from Democratic lawmakers who claim he has potential conflicts of interest involving his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, and her conservative political activism.

The efforts against Clarence Thomas are part of a recent pressure campaign from the Democrat establishment and legacy media attempting to erase the conservative super majority that former President Donald Trump managed to create when he appointed three Supreme Court justices during his term. The attacks from the Left have often sought to imply Ginni Thomas’s public political activism somehow compromised Clarence Thomas.

Criticism of Ginni Thomas’ work in public policy hit a fever pitch during the Trump Administration, with legacy media taking every advantage to denounce her personal political views. A Washington Post article from 2018 characterized Ginni Thomas as “your slightly paranoid neighbor who stockpiles bullets and astronaut food” for posts she made on social media alleging the Democratic Party committed voter fraud and that former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spied on Trump.

After a 2019 roundtable on transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military, Ginni Thomas accused White House staffers of blocking Trump loyalists from getting positions, according to the New York Times. Liberal media claimed the meeting only happened after Clarence and Ginni Thomas had a private dinner with Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

On Monday, Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Democratic Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal led 22 other Democratic members of Congress in demanding Clarence Thomas explain why he didn’t recuse himself from cases involving the 2020 election and Jan. 6 after several text messages sent by Ginni Thomas advocating for a review of the November 2020 presidential election were published by The Washington Post.

“Last week, the Washington Post and CBS News published a disturbing set of stories detailing Ms. Thomas’s efforts to persuade then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to ‘pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election,'” the Democrats’ letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Clarence Thomas said. The letter also argued Ginni Thomas was “not simply another attendee at the January 6th ‘Stop the Steal‘ rally.” (RELATED: Hidden Video Captures NYT Reporter Calling Coverage About Jan 6 ‘Overblown.’ Fake Trauma, Fake News, Full ‘Of FBI Informants’)

After President Joe Biden was the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election, Ginni Thomas allegedly sent a string of text messages to her long-time friend Meadows, including: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!… You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Critics also took issue with Ginni Thomas’s participation in a heated debate over the 2020 election results on a private Listserv, Thomas Clerk World, for which she later apologized for causing infighting among the clerks, reported The Washington Post.

Complaints Ginni Thomas went past the precedent of independent spouses began after she attended the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. Ginni Thomas also posted links on her personal Facebook page to promote the rally and thanked former President Donald Trump’s supporters for “standing up or praying” for him, reported Slate.

She admitted to attending the rally in a Mar. 14 interview with the Washington Free Beacon but said she had no hand in planning the event or helping in dissolving tensions within Trump’s supporters despite reporting that said otherwise.

Democrats in the Monday letter denounced Ginni Thomas’s attendance at the Jan. 6 rally along with her letter calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to punish Republicans participating in the U.S. House’s investigation into the rally. The letter also mentioned her “direct communication with the White House and congressional aides” regarding the 2020 election results while the “Trump Administration was coordinating litigation before the Supreme Court on the topic.”

Clarence Thomas’s lack of recusal in the 2020 election and Jan. 6 cases before the court has become “exceedingly difficult to reconcile with federal ethics requirements” given the efforts by Ginni Thomas to “overturn the election,” The Democrats continued in the letter.

Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenting vote in Trump’s Supreme Court case seeking to block administration records from being handed to House select committee investigating Jan. 6.

Ginni Thomas denied any conflict of interest between her activism during the aftermath of the 2020 election and Clarence Thomas’ work on the Supreme Court, according to her interview with the Washington Free Beacon.

“Like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principles, and aspirations for America,” Ginni Thomas told the outlet. “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.”

“If you are going to be true to yourself and your professional calling, you can never be intimidated, chilled, or censored by what the press or others say,” Ginni Thomas continued.

NYU Professor Stephen Gillers, who did not return the Daily Caller’s request for comment, criticized Ginni Thomas’s Conservative political activism in relation to her husband’s position on the Supreme Court.

“I think Ginni Thomas is behaving horribly, and she’s hurt the Supreme Court and the administration of justice. It’s reprehensible,” Gillers told The New Yorker in January. “If you could take a secret poll of the other eight Justices, I have no doubt that they are appalled by Virginia Thomas’s behavior. But what can they do?”

Gillers said Clarence Thomas should be bound by the lower court’s “appearance test” that requires judges to recuse themselves from cases where any reasonable observer might question the judge’s impartiality.

The recusal statute, signed by seven Justices in 1993, requires judges to recuse themselves from cases where a family member is listed as a party to the case or could financially gain from the decision.

“It doesn’t require an actual conflict,” he told The New Yorker. “The reason we use an appearance test is because we say the appearance of justice is as important as the fact of justice itself.”

However, Gillers had a different sentiment when Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt decided not to recuse himself from the ACLU case against California’s Prop. 8 banning gay marriage. Reinhardt’s wife, Ramona Ripston, in her official capacity as the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, filed an amicus brief in the case and even commented on it publicly.

“We are long past the day when a wife’s opinions are assumed to be the same as her husband’s, and in which spousal views and activity are categorically imputed to one’s spouse. No authority requires a judge to recuse based alone on the opinions of his or her spouse; only an ‘outmoded conception of the relationship between spouses’ would hold otherwise,” said Giller in 2013 in defense of Reinhardt’s decision not to recuse.

The Daily Caller reached out to over a dozen prominent judicial and first amendment scholars for comment. The request was either ignored or denied.

Mark Paoletta, who was instrumental in the confirmation effort of Thomas during his time as White House assistant counsel to former President George H.W. Bush, told the Daily Caller that Democrats are using a smear campaign against Thomas in an attempt to get a highly effective Conservative justice off the bench before landmark cases are placed on the Supreme Court docket.

“These attacks are an effort to delegitimize the court and attempt to intimidate Supreme Court Justices as the court gets ready to rule on major cases, including on abortion and Second Amendment,” Paoletta told the Daily Caller. “They are trying to take out Justice Thomas through their attacks on Ginni.”

Paoletta said the precedent set by Reinhardt by not recusing himself “was applauded and defended by the Left,” and any comment that Ginni Thomas doesn’t have the right to work in public policy is “another sexist smear.”

“The media and the left have invented a new standard for Ginni Thomas that finds no place in the law or in precedent,” said Paoletta. “The examples of Judge Reinhardt. The examples of Judge Pillard and other judges with spouses who have advocated very publically on issues that came before them.”

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an active member of the Supreme Court until she died in 2020, including overseeing cases that involved her husband, Marty Ginsburg and their daughter, Jane Ginsburg.

Marty Ginsburg practiced law at a firm that argued cases before the Supreme Court, in which Justice Ginsburg never recused herself. Their law professor daughter, Jane Ginsburg, wrote an article cited in a Supreme Court case by the petitioner. Not only did Justice Ginsburg hear the case, she decided in the way Jane Ginsburg advocated for in her article.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, echoed Paoletta, telling the Daily Caller the attacks on Ginni Thomas are a “political operation against the Supreme Court.” (RELATED: Justice Thomas Presents Arguments Remotely After Being Released From The Hospital)

“It’s part of the radical Left’s attack on our Republican form of government. They don’t like the court operating in a way separate and apart from politics,” said Fitton. “They are now trying to draw [the Supreme Court] into this political fight over Jan. 6.”

“There is no issue for Justice Thomas or, frankly, for Ginni in anything that she has done, and I think there is a recognition that is the case,” he added. “Ginni Thomas spoke to a government official about a matter of public concern, which is her God-given right as a United States citizen.”

Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino told the Daily Caller the Left’s war on Justice Thomas through his wife Ginni Thomas is not based on the fact of law.

“The Left’s partisan crusade to force Justice Thomas off of cases is not based on real recusal standards but on politics,” Severino said. “Liberals don’t like the fact that he is black and won’t follow their agenda, so they invent flimsy controversies to discredit him for thinking for himself.”

Fitton said the concern from those who want a “rule of law approach to Supreme Court decisions” is that “some justices might pull a punch for fear of public attack.”

“I think it is designed to intimidate – and Clarence Thomas isn’t going anywhere,” said Fitton. “I don’t know if it has the effect of intimidating the other judges, but that, to me, is the hope. The idea that Justice Thomas has to recuse himself from some cases that aren’t before the court on the particulars of which no one has any idea about is absurd silliness.”

“They’re making up new rules to try and cow the Conservative majority on the Court in the months before perhaps one of the more significant decisions in last 50 years whether to throw out Roe v. Wade,” he added. “You don’t lose your First Amendment right just because you are married to a Supreme Court Justice.”

Despite the constant media pressure against Clarence Thomas, You/Gov polling from 2021 shows that not only does he score high favorability among Republicans, 59%, but he holds the highest approval rating of Supreme Court Justices from both parties. The survey polled 1500 Americans on March 6-9, 2021, with a margin of error of +/- 2.7%.