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Jan. 6 Committee Chair Bennie Thompson says it’s “time” to drag Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in front of his partisan panel so they can grill her over some private text messages and emails. To this point, Thompson hasn’t presented a scintilla of evidence implicating Ginni Thomas in any illegality, nor any evidence that she was in favor of rioting or violence.
Thomas isn’t an elected official, she wasn’t running for office or working for the administration, nor was she imbued with supernatural powers that could compel anyone to act against their will or the Constitution. As a private citizen she was petitioning officials to engage in the political act of challenging election results—something Democrats regularly do. As my colleague Tristan Justice has pointed out, not a single of the 29 texts exchanged between Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Thomas (of more than 2,300 text messages released to the committee) included a single direct reference to her husband or any other justice.
Interactions between the White House and justices’ wives might be fair game for journalists—the same journalists, incidentally, who methodically avoid investigating interactions between the president of the United States and his shady son—but a private citizen’s opinions are none of Congress’s concern. Indeed, justices’ wives aren’t stripped of their right to free expression simply because it upsets Bennie Thompson. Democrats want to force Thomas to testify so they can keep tenuously cobbling together as many unrelated acts as possible in an effort to create the impression that there was a widespread coup. Every day proves that contention more risible.
The second, perhaps more important reason in attempting to paint Ginni Thomas’ political activism as part of nefarious, violent plot, is to pressure her husband into recusing himself from cases involving the executive branch. And if that fails, it gives leftists fodder to accuse Thomas of corruption. Justice Elena Kagan is free to help coordinate the defense of Obamacare while solicitor general and then rule on the same law. Justice Stephen Breyer is free to act as the Senate Judiciary Committee’s chief counsel on sentencing guidelines and then rule on his own work.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg could rule on a slew of issues she had taken public positions on while working for the ACLU. But Clarence Thomas’s wife can’t have opinions. The claim that Clarence Thomas has any legal obligation to recuse himself from any cases because his wife has opinions is a fabrication, as Andy McCarthy explained:
The statute that governs judicial disqualification, Section 455 (of Title 28, U.S. Code), extensively addresses recusal on the basis of a spouse’s potential connection to matters in litigation. Essentially, the triggers involve financial or legal stakes in the matter, or some connection to the matter as an attorney. Ginni Thomas’s conservative political activism — up to and including the text messages to Mark Meadows about the 2020 election — does not activate those triggers. If it did, many judges appointed by Democrats would have been disqualified from cases over which they’ve presided despite the political and legal activism of their spouses.
Clarence Thomas is the most straightforward jurist of the modern age. The notion that he is in bag for any partisan special interest is preposterous beyond words. And that’s the real problem for liberals. The intense loathing of Thomas by the left is propelled by his unadorned adherence to the Constitution and his reluctance to concoct rights or bow to vagaries of the public pressure. Nothing deters the progressive project more than those traits.
The Jan. 6 Committee, stocked with its own mendacious conspiracy theorists and election deniers like Adam Schiff—a committee that denied the duly elected opposition the ability to name members it wanted—is targeting private citizens for wrongthink in an effort to undermine the court on issues completely unrelated to Jan 6. The left’s concerted political efforts to delegitimize and intimidate the court are a more dangerous long-term threat to our institutions than anything Jan. 6 rioters could ever have accomplished.