It’s long been clear there is one set of rules for liberal Democrats and another for conservative Republicans. While Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson promised this week to recuse herself from a case involving Harvard University if she’s confirmed to the Supreme Court (she’s on one of several Harvard governing boards), Justice Clarence Thomas has for months been ruling on issues relating to Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the January 6 coup attempt—even though it’s been known that his wing nut wife was involved in planning both.
Now a gob-smacking trove of texts between Ginni Thomas and former Donald Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows shows not only the extent of her involvement in election subversion, and the access she had to the White House, but also the extent to which she lives on the far-right fringe, sharing with Meadows crazy QAnon-infused theories and other nonsense. This news comes two days after Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee tried to tar Jackson with QAnon lunacy by painting her as soft on pedophiles in her sentencing decisions during two grueling and surreal days of confirmation hearings. So, to be fair to Ginni Thomas, maybe it’s not the fringe anymore; her advocacy has helped move hateful and dangerous conspiracies into the GOP mainstream.
Oh, and where the hell has Clarence Thomas been? The justice was hospitalized for an “infection” Sunday night and expected to be released Tuesday. He apparently was not, but the court refused to tell the public where he was until Friday, when it revealed he had just been released. No word on what the “infection” is, or was, or when Thomas will get back to work.
We’ve long known about Ginni Thomas’s entanglement with a spectrum of far-right organizations; The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer laid a lot of it out earlier this year, and my colleague Elie Mystal also dissected the Clarence-Ginni outrages. But there’s never been evidence as damning as her messages to Meadows, and his admiring replies.
Thomas’s texts were among 2,320 Meadows gave to the House January 6 Committee before he decided not to cooperate. We’ve seen other tantalizing missives to Meadows, from Fox News anchors and even Donald J. Trump Jr., trying to get him to get Trump to tell the armed insurrectionists to stop their bloody Capitol rampage. But the Thomas correspondence is in a special category. (Required journalistic credit-giving here: CNN first reported the existence of the Thomas-Meadows texts, but Bob Woodward and Robert Costa had the most thorough early account, in The Washington Post.)
In 29 messages back and forth between November 5 and January 10, we see the right-wing activist lauding Meadows for helping Trump fight the election results, imploring him to take ever-crazier steps to do so, and, finally, lamenting the failure of their efforts to block Biden’s presidency. Early on Meadows replied enthusiastically, then gradually seemed to tune her down, if not out.
“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!” she wrote on November 10. “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.” Just a minute later, Meadows replied: “I will stand firm. We will fight until there is no fight left. Our country is too precious to give up on. Thanks for all you do.”
He sent an even more avid note of encouragement to Thomas a couple of weeks later: “This is a fight of good versus evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.”
A grateful Thomas replied: “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”
Let’s note here that the Thomases have referred to each other as “best friends,” so it’s not far-fetched to suspect that was a reference to an encouraging conversation with her Supreme Court Justice husband. As Bob Woodward told MSNBC Friday morning: “He has publicly called her his best friend, and so there’s an implication there” that they discussed it. (Still, there is no proof of that in the texts, which never mention him.)
Thomas’s first messages to Meadows after the election, on November 5, included some of her craziest notions, one about a rumored “sting” by Trump, using “watermarked” ballots that would prove Democrats’ election fraud, circulating in QAnon circles. “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states,” she claimed. She shared another Q theory that day: “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.” Sending Democrats to Guantánamo Bay military detention looms large in QAnon fantasies. Daily Beast reporter Will Sommer, who’s writing a book on QAnon, explained the references better than I can in this Twitter thread.
Meadows seemed to weary of Thomas a bit when she berated him for not putting crackpot lawyer Sidney Powell in charge of Trump’s legal team. On November 19, the day Powell and Rudy Giuliani embarrassed themselves at a news conference outside Republican National Committee headquarters, she wrote: “Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down.” Apparently the text went on and on, occasionally taking a hectoring tone. Meadows replied, “Thanks so much.” The Trump team separated itself from Powell.
On November 24, Thomas had had enough. Sharing a post with an unclear reference to Glenn Beck, she told him: “If you all cave to the elites, you have to know that many of your 73 million feel like what Glenn is expressing,” Thomas wrote. “I don’t know what you mean by caving to the elites.”
Meadows responded. They went back-and-forth, and Meadows wrote, “You’re preaching to the choir. Very demoralizing.”
The trail of texts then goes cold—until January 10, four days after the deadly Capitol attack. It’s not clear whether communication actually stopped or Meadows didn’t give later ones to the January 6 Committee. Thomas decried the failure to block the certification of Biden’s election that day, calling it “The end of Liberty.” There’s no evidence Meadows replied.
Thomas might be right about “the end of Liberty,” but she’s got the culprits wrong: She and her network of right-wing wackos, who have gradually taken over the Republican Party, are subverting democracy. Their ugly fever dreams of Democratic wrongdoing, whether it’s stealing elections or sick fantasies of child sex trafficking, have already inspired violence. And what does her paranoid, antidemocratic activism have to do with Clarence Thomas? We can’t know for sure, but I’d venture it says a lot.
We know he’s one of the farthest right members of the court. He joined 5-4 majorities to stop the Florida recount, handing the 2000 election to George W. Bush (while Ginni was screening possible Bush administration employees for the Heritage Foundation), to block campaign finance reforms in 2010, and to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013’s Shelby v. Holder. He’s been on the losing end of decisions that found gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act constitutional (while groups affiliated with Ginni lobbied against both). Although we can’t necessarily hold someone’s spouse’s beliefs against them, there is plenty of evidence to suggest he shares many of his wife’s views.
What is most outrageous is his failure to recuse himself from decisions that relate to her far-right activism, especially the planning and execution of what happened January 6. He was the lone justice to side with Trump on his refusal to disclose January 6 documents, and he also weighed in on Trump’s side when several election “fraud” cases came to the court. This can’t continue.
Or can it? For too long, Chief Justice John Roberts has looked away from the Thomas mess. Democrats can, and should, impeach Thomas—Michael Tomasky made the case two months ago—but they won’t. They could also impose ethics rules and recusal requirements on the court, whose nine justices are the only judges not subject to existing judicial ethics laws. But they haven’t.
It’s tempting to say that, finally, the media will pay more attention to the Thomases’ corruption; the shocking text trove has gotten a decent amount of coverage. But alas: We’ve believed that before, and, as Dan Rather said in a Substack post devoted to the Thomas-Meadows texts, given the constant transgressions by the right, “the half-life of outrage can be measured in nanoseconds.” The January 6 committee could subpoena Thomas, but she’d likely refuse to comply. It’s a terrible feeling to have to say I’m not sure anything will change, but I’d be lying if I said otherwise.