Senior Democrats are calling for US Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases relating to the January 6 Capitol attack, after newly revealed text messages showed his wife repeatedly pressing Donald Trump’s former chief of staff to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election.
US media on Thursday published nearly 30 text messages between Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a conservative activist, and Mark Meadows, the former Republican congressman who served as Trump’s final chief of staff.
The messages were part of a much larger tranche of communications Meadows handed over to the congressional committee probing the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, when mobs of Trump supporters stormed Congress in a violent attempt to halt the certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory.
The publication of the texts sent shockwaves through Washington, raising fresh questions about the independence of America’s highest court at a time when Trump continues to falsely claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him, and is publicly toying with another run at the White House in 2024.
“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!! . . . You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice,” Ginni Thomas wrote to Meadows in one text sent on November 10, shortly after the election, the Washington Post and CBS reported. “The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
Top Democratic lawmakers said the texts raised serious questions about Clarence Thomas’s independence and fitness to adjudicate cases relating to January 6 or the former president.
“In light of new reporting from numerous outlets, Justice Thomas’ conduct on the Supreme Court looks increasingly corrupt,” Ron Wyden, the Democratic senator from Oregon, said on Friday.
“Judges are obligated to recuse themselves when their participation in a case would create even the appearance of a conflict of interest. A person with an ounce of common sense could see that bar is met here,” Wyden added.
He noted that Thomas was the lone dissenter from a recent 8-1 Supreme Court decision allowing the congressional committee probing January 6 to access White House records relating to Trump’s final days in office.
Tim Kaine, the Democratic senator from Virginia, said Clarence Thomas needed to provide “answers”.
“Justice Thomas was the sole member of the Supreme Court who would have allowed records from Trump, Meadows, et al to be withheld from House Jan 6 Committee,” Kaine said on Twitter. “He did not explain his reasoning. We need answers.”
The White House did not immediately comment on the text messages between Ginni Thomas and Meadows. The January 6 committee, which is led by Democratic lawmakers and counts two Republicans — Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger — among its members did not immediately comment on the reports.
Clarence Thomas, a conservative jurist, was nominated by George HW Bush to serve on the Supreme Court and confirmed in 1991. He became only the second black justice on the nine-member court, after Thurgood Marshall.
US Supreme Court justices are appointed to the bench for life, though some choose to retire. There is also a provision in the US Constitution for justices to be impeached and removed from office. Only one Supreme Court justice — Samuel Chase — has been impeached, but he remained in office after being acquitted following a Senate trial in 1805.
Clarence Thomas, 73, was hospitalised last week after complaining of flu-like symptoms. The Supreme Court said in a statement on Friday that he had been released from hospital after being diagnosed with an infection and treated with antibiotics.