COMMENTARY

Jan. 6 committee finally zeroes in on Ginni Thomas — but will the Supreme Court?

New Ginni Thomas revelations prove that the Supreme Court is a corrupt, failed institution

By Amanda Marcotte

Published June 16, 2022 12:19PM (EDT)

Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas arrive at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas arrive at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

How long will the Beltway establishment be able to ignore what is increasingly obvious? The Supreme Court is an illegitimate and debased institution that is eating away at our democracy.

The conservative majority has gone all-out in investigating the leaked Samuel Alito draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Clinic, the case that the court is using to overturn Roe v. Wade in a few short weeks. Chief Justice John Roberts, in his fervor to find the leaker, has reportedly demanded that the law clerks turn over their cell phones to investigators. Because heaven forbid that the court — which increasingly feels empowered to stomp on any democratically determined policy that offends far-right sensibilities — be subject to any level of transparency or scrutiny as it tears up basic human rights. On the flip side, however, there appears to be no interest at the Supreme Court in investigating the extremely strong possibility that one or more of the sitting justices is part of an ongoing fascist conspiracy to overthrow democracy. 

RELATED: New report shows Ginni Thomas' effort to overturn election much bigger than previously reported

For months, stories have been leaking out demonstrating that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, was an active and eager participant in Donald Trump's attempted coup that culminated in a violent attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. However, it hasn't been entirely clear how central a role she played in the coup. She certainly spent lots of time blitzing Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, with text messages in which she spitballed ideas for stealing the 2020 election victory from President Joe Biden and shared wild conspiracy theories she thought could be leveraged as a pretext to do so. 

Late Wednesday, however, we were hit with a one-two punch of stories that suggest that the Ginni Thomas situation is incredibly dire.


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First, the Washington Post reported that the House committee investigating January 6 obtained email correspondence between Ginni Thomas and Trump "lawyer John Eastman, who played a key role in efforts to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to block the certification of Joe Biden's victory."

The Supreme Court, as it currently stands, is incompatible with democracy.

"The emails show that Thomas's efforts to overturn the election were more extensive than previously known," the Post reports, though details are still hazy. 

Shortly after that article came out, the New York Times followed up with a report that Eastman told another pro-Trump lawyer, Kenneth Chesebro, that he had insider knowledge of a "heated fight underway" between Supreme Court justices on whether or not to take up one of Trump's many frivolous lawsuits demanding that the election be thrown out. Even more disturbingly, Chesebro replied with an email that suggested not just that Trump's team was planning the Jan. 6 riot, but that they hoped the threat of it could be leveraged as pressure on the Supreme Court to take up the case. He wrote that "odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be 'wild' chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way."

RELATED: Trump lawyers hoped Jan. 6 "chaos" could pressure SCOTUS on election amid Ginni Thomas talks: report

It's possible, of course, that Eastman was fronting. It's more likely, considering how close he and Ginni Thomas were and how much they communicated about the coup, that he was not. Either way, it's exponentially more important to find out the truth of the matter than it is to find out who leaked the Dobbs draft opinion. Not only is there a coup plotter married to a Supreme Court justice, but there's also reason to fear that she and her husband — and god only knows which of the other justices — were having a secretive debate about how far they were willing to go in order to help Trump's coup succeed. 

The Supreme Court is too powerful, too unaccountable, and the result is it's become thoroughly corrupted.

Unfortunately, we're unlikely to get such an investigation. While the House select committee indicated on Thursday that it plans to request testimony from Ginni Thomas in light of the newly reported Eastman emails, this information is coming from materials subpoenaed by the House, not the court itself. That points to a troubling truth: The justices on the Supreme Court feel wholly unaccountable to the American public.

Yes, it's clear that there were those on the court who disagreed with the coup and pushed back in this "heated fight." But, it appears none of them felt the need to alert either the House select committee or the Department of Justice about what they knew about Ginni Thomas' involvement or what their fellow jurist was saying behind closed doors. 


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Sadly, none of this is surprising. Even the liberal justices have become so accustomed to the court's culture of secrecy and unaccountability that there's a possibility they knew about this "heated fight" and didn't stop for a second to think that a line had been crossed from debate to sedition. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will join the Supreme Court for the fall term, memorably wrote that "presidents are not kings" in a 2019 appellate court decision against Trump. Justices should not be kings, either. Far too many of them, however, seem to think that they are. 

The impact of this extends far beyond the possibility that at least one seditionist sits on the court and remains untouchable. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor memorably noted in a recent dissent, this Republican-heavy court — which has three justices appointed by Trump alone — is "restless." They are ramming through a wishlist of far-right and authoritarian decisions, and aren't especially worried about whether the reasoning is logical or legal. Just last week, the court voided the plain letter reading of the Fourth Amendment for over 60% of the country, claiming the right not to be searched without a warrant doesn't count if you live 100 miles from the border. And that decision has barely made a ripple in news coverage, overshadowed instead by the upcoming abortion ban and what is likely to be a decision destroying the ability of states to pass common sense gun regulations. 

RELATED: Samuel Alito's leaked anti-abortion decision: Supreme Court doesn't plan to stop at Roe

The public is increasingly angry about a politicized, unaccountable court, and the response from the Republican justices has been entitled whining, complaining both in public and behind the scenes about how their critics don't show them enough respect. As Paul Waldman wrote at the Washington Post, no one is a bigger whiner than Clarence Thomas: 

Like many on the right, even in triumph he is consumed with his own victimhood, complaining about the court being "bullied" and warning that we should refrain from "destroying our institutions" when we don't get "what we want," even as his wife was wrapped up in the conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.

But the situation is so dire that even the normal criticisms of the court and proposed solutions — like term limits or expanding the court — are starting to feel inadequate. The Supreme Court is too powerful, too unaccountable, and the result is it's become thoroughly corrupted. Our democracy is in crisis and, as this week shows, a big part of the reason is that it's beholden to an unaccountable court. So unaccountable, in fact, that there's a justice who is married to a woman involved in a conspiracy to overthrow democracy and no one seems to have any power or interest in doing something about it.

The Supreme Court, as it currently stands, is incompatible with democracy. The only real solution is to pull it up by the roots and replace it with a new court geared towards actual accountability. 


Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Capitol Riot Clarence Thomas Commentary Donald Trump Ginni Thomas January 6 John Eastman Supreme Court