Justice Thomas faces calls to recuse himself from election cases

Democrats want the court’s senior justice to recuse himself from election cases because his wife pushed to overturn the 2020 election

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
Sunday 27 March 2022 18:36
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<p>Supreme Court Virginia Thomas</p>

Supreme Court Virginia Thomas

Prominent Democrats are calling for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from any future case involving presidential elections in the wake of a series of bombshell reports on text messages sent by his wife, GInni Thomas, to ex-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, urging him to overturn the 2020 election.

Ms Thomas, a longtime conservative activist whose work has often intersected with matters before the court her husband serves on, has long been a lightning rod for criticism from Democrats who charge that her work imperils the reputation of the court because it taints his judicial decisions.

Both Mr and Ms Thomas have rejected these criticisms and say they keep their professional lives separate, but reports that Ms Thomas was actively engaged in trying to overturn the election have cast a renewed focus on his work, including his lone dissent in a 2021 case former president Donald Trump brought to keep White House records out of the hands of the House January 6th select committee.

Speaking on ABC News’ This Week, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar said Mr Thomas should be recused from future election cases.

“This is a textbook case for removing him, recusing him from these decisions…The entire integrity of the court is on the line here,” she said.

Her Senate judiciary committee colleague, Cory Booker of New Jersey, told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet The Press that Mr Thomas “clearly” should recuse himself from election cases going forward “given his wife, Ginni Thomas, sent ‘stop the steal’ texts around the Jan. 6 insurrection”.

Mr Booker noted that Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself over 20 times after joining the court because of her prior role as solicitor general.

“She understood that even the appearance of impropriety would delegitimize the court. and the court needs that legitimacy,” he said, adding that the court exempts itself from “common sense” ethics rules and the “Thomas affair” should give Congress cause to mandate the same rules for Supreme Court justices.

Another Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, told CBS News that Mr Thomas should consider “voluntarily appearing” before Congress to resolve questions over his wife’s text exchanges with Mr Meadows.

Even a Republican senator, Ohio’s Rob Portman, said Mr Thomas “might consider” recusing himself in future cases dealing with the 6 January attack.

“I don't think that what your spouse says should recuse you … whether it's in the legislative branch or in the judicial branch — that would be a new precedent,” he said. “But I do think that if a case comes … that's exactly on point … as to probably records and whether they should be made available, that might be an issue where he would he would think about it”.

But despite his wife’s text messages being in the hands of the House January 6th select committee, one of it’s members — Republican Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — said Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that the committee had not yet decided whether Ms Thomas would be called as witness before the panel but promised the committee would “take a look at what the evidence is” before making a decision.

“We will work in a coordinated and logical way to examine the Thomas texts. We want to make sure we are driven by facts. Our job is to get the answers for the American people,” he said.

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