National

Ginni Thomas pressed Trump’s chief of staff to overturn 2020 vote, texts show

The 29 texts show Thomas imploring Mark Meadows to keep Trump in office.

Supporters of then-President Donald Trump storm the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. Jason Andrew/The New York Times


In the weeks between the 2020 presidential election and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent a barrage of text messages imploring President Donald Trump’s chief of staff to take steps to overturn the vote, according to a person with knowledge of the texts.

In one message sent in the days after the election, she urged the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to “release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down,” invoking a slogan popular on the right that refers to a web of conspiracy theories that Trump supporters believed would overturn the election.

Advertisement:

In another, she wrote: “I can’t see Americans swallowing the obvious fraud. Just going with one more thing with no frickin consequences.” She added: “We just cave to people wanting Biden to be anointed? Many of us can’t continue the GOP charade.”

The contents of the texts were reported earlier by The Washington Post and CBS News. They were among about 9,000 pages of documents that Meadows turned over to the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. The texts detailed Meadows’ interactions with Republican politicians as they planned strategies to try to keep Trump in office in the weeks before the riot.

The committee obtained 29 texts between Thomas and Meadows — 28 exchanged between Nov. 4 and Nov. 24, and one written on Jan. 10. The text messages, most of which were written by Thomas, represent the first evidence that she was directly advising the White House as it sought to overturn the election. In fact, in her efforts to keep Trump in power, Thomas effectively toggled between like-minded members of the executive and legislative branches, even as her husband, who sits atop the judiciary branch that is supposed to serve as a check on the other branches of government, heard election-related cases.

Advertisement:

Clarence Thomas has been Trump’s most stalwart defender on the court. In February 2021, he wrote a dissent after the majority declined to hear a case filed by Pennsylvania Republicans that sought to disqualify certain mail-in ballots. And this past January, he was the only justice who voted against allowing the release of records from the Trump White House related to the Jan. 6 attack.

Virginia Thomas has actively opposed the Jan. 6 committee and its work, co-signing a letter in December calling for House Republicans to expel Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger from their conference for joining the committee. Thomas and her co-authors said the investigation “brings disrespect to our country’s rule of law” and “legal harassment to private citizens who have done nothing wrong,” adding that they would begin “a nationwide movement to add citizens’ voices to this effort.”

Many of Thomas’ postelection texts are rambling, with little attention to punctuation, and they run the gamut. She calls Nov. 3, Election Day, a “heist,” and repeats debunked conspiracy theories, including one pushed by QAnon that falsely alleged that voter fraud had been discovered in Arizona on secretly watermarked ballots.

The texts show she was communicating not only with Meadows, but also with Connie Hair, the chief of staff to Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, who sued Vice President Mike Pence to force him to certify Trump as the victor of the 2020 election.

Advertisement:

The text traffic also suggests that Thomas was in contact with Jared Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law and adviser. Sidney Powell, the lawyer advising Trump’s campaign team known for unleashing wild theories about voting fraud, comes up repeatedly. On Nov. 13, for instance, Trump included Powell in a tweeted list of his team’s lawyers. That same day, Thomas urged Meadows to support Powell, and said she had also reached out to “Jared” to do the same: “Just forwarded to yr gmail an email I sent Jared this am,” she wrote. “Sidney Powell & improved coordination now will help the cavalry come and Fraud exposed and America saved.”

When some of the president’s other lawyers began distancing themselves from Powell, Thomas warned Meadows not to “cave” to the “elites.”

In one text exchange right after the election, she tells Meadow that he needed to listen to Steve Pieczenik, a onetime State Department consultant who has appeared on Alex Jones’ Infowars to claim, among other things, that the Sandy Hook school massacre was a false-flag operation.

She also quoted language circulating on pro-Trump sites that said, “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.” She added: “I hope this is true.”

Thomas and Meadows have been like-minded associates for years, and she bestowed an award on him at a 2019 gathering of conservatives. While Thomas already had access to the president, White House aides said her influence increased after Trump named Meadows chief of staff in March 2020.

Advertisement:

Meadows is no longer cooperating with the committee; a lawyer for Meadows, George J. Terwilliger III, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Nor did Thomas or the Supreme Court. Terwilliger has argued that Meadows cooperated as much as he could without violating Trump’s assertions of executive privilege, and Meadows has filed suit against the panel to seek a court ruling to determine the validity of those assertions of executive privilege. Others challenging the committee’s subpoenas in court include John Eastman, a conservative lawyer and former clerk to Clarence Thomas who wrote a memo arguing that Pence had the power to reject Electoral College votes for President Joe Biden. Both cases could end up before the Supreme Court.

A New York Times investigation published in February highlighted Virginia Thomas’ postelection activities, including her role on the board of CNP Action, a conservative group that worked to advance efforts to overturn the election even as she was texting Meadows. In one document, it instructed members to pressure Republican lawmakers into challenging the results and appointing alternate slates of electors: “Demand that they not abandon their Constitutional responsibilities during a time such as this.”

In recently published remarks, Thomas downplayed her role at the group, but also said she had attended the Jan. 6 rally at the Ellipse in Washington. She added that she “was disappointed and frustrated that there was violence that happened following a peaceful gathering.”

She also said she “played no role with those who were planning and leading the Jan. 6 events.” But those comments are undercut by her communications with Meadows, who was deeply involved in the planning of the Jan. 6 protests.

Advertisement:

In her one text to Meadows after the attack that the committee was able to obtain, she only briefly mentions what took place, and only after reiterating one of its animating ideas — that Pence had betrayed Trump’s movement.

She writes of feeling that “we are living in what feels like the end of America. Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams. Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our great teams of patriots for DJT!! Amazing times. The end of liberty.”

Thomas has been a longtime political activist on the far right, and she and her husband have been a frequent presence at partisan political conferences. That has long led to calls for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases in which his wife has an interest, but he has rejected such suggestions. He once said his wife worked “24/7 every day in defense of liberty,” adding, “We are equally yoked, and we love being with each other because we love the same things.”

Stephen Gillers, a law professor and judicial ethics expert at New York University, said that while Virginia Thomas is free to exercise her First Amendment rights, her texts crossed a line.

“The consequences of what she’s done is that I don’t think that Clarence Thomas can sit on any case involving, even remotely, the conduct of the election, the vote of Congress on Jan. 6, or any cases involving the Jan. 6 committee’s attempts to get information, including the committee’s efforts to get Eastman’s emails,” he said. “He must recuse himself, and should have recused himself in the cases that have been heard up to now.”

Advertisement:

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com