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Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice, says she attended Jan. 6 ‘Stop the Steal’ rally before Capitol attack

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/14/2022 Mariana Alfaro
Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, right, and wife Virginia “Ginni” Thomas arrive for a State Dinner in 2019 with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington. © Patrick Semansky/AP Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, right, and wife Virginia “Ginni” Thomas arrive for a State Dinner in 2019 with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington.

Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, for the first time has publicly acknowledged that she participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse that preceded the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, raising questions about the impartiality of her husband’s work.

In an interview with the conservative Washington Free Beacon that was published Monday, Thomas, who goes by Ginni, said she was part of the crowd that gathered on the Ellipse that morning to support President Donald Trump. Trump was claiming falsely that widespread voter fraud had delivered the presidency to Democrat Joe Biden — a falsehood he continues to repeat.

Thomas said she was at the rally for a short time, got cold and went home before Trump took the stage at noon that day.

“I was disappointed and frustrated that there was violence that happened following a peaceful gathering of Trump supporters on the Ellipse on Jan. 6,” the conservative activist told the publication. “There are important and legitimate substantive questions about achieving goals like electoral integrity, racial equality, and political accountability that a democratic system like ours needs to be able to discuss and debate rationally in the political square. I fear we are losing that ability.”

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In February 2021, Thomas apologized to her husband’s former law clerks after a rift developed among them over her election advocacy of Trump and endorsement of the Jan. 6 rally that led to violence and death at the Capitol.

The attack by a pro-Trump mob trying to stop the confirmation of Biden’s electoral college win left the Capitol vandalized and resulted in the deaths of five people and injuries to 140 members of law enforcement.

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“I owe you all an apology. I have likely imposed on you my lifetime passions,” Thomas wrote to a private Thomas Clerk World email list of her husband’s staff over his three decades on the bench.

Ginni Thomas apologizes to husband’s Supreme Court clerks after Capitol riot fallout

As an outspoken activist, Ginni Thomas has drawn scrutiny to her husband’s work on the court and his impartiality, most recently in connection with the Jan. 6 attack and the House select committee tasked with investigating the riot.

While Ginni Thomas’s activism has, in multiple instances, overlapped with cases that have been decided by her husband, her connection to the rally that preceded the insurrection has reignited fury among his critics, who say it illustrates a gaping hole in the court’s rules: Justices essentially decide for themselves whether they have a conflict of interest.

In December, Ginni Thomas was among a group of conservative leaders who signed a letter criticizing the work of the bipartisan House committee as “overtly partisan political persecution.” The next month, the Supreme Court decided on Trump’s request to deny the committee White House records that Biden had ordered be released. Instead of recusing himself from the case, Clarence Thomas was the only justice to say he would grant Trump’s request.

In the interview, Ginni Thomas insisted that her work is separate from that of her husband.

“Like so many married couples, we share many of the same ideals, principles, and aspirations for America,” Ginni Thomas said. “But we have our own separate careers, and our own ideas and opinions too. Clarence doesn’t discuss his work with me, and I don’t involve him in my work.”

Critics say Ginni Thomas’s activism is a Supreme Court conflict. Under court rules, only her husband can decide if that’s true.

Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a nonpartisan advocacy group that advocates for reforms to the Supreme Court, said Ginni Thomas’s participation in the rally should have been enough of an excuse for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from the House committee case.

The justice’s failure to do so, Roth said, is yet another example of how poorly Supreme Court justices observe the recusal standard.

While the Supreme Court is supposed to operate under regulations guiding all federal judges, including a requirement that a justice “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” there is no procedure to enforce that standard. Each justice can decide whether to recuse, and there is no way to appeal a Supreme Court member’s failure to do so.

“Because of her participation in that rally, which then led to the breach of the Capitol, which then led to the January 6 committee … that means that you, as a justice, your impartiality still might reasonably be questioned,” Roth said.

Roth said it is not only Clarence Thomas who does not properly observe the recusal standard, noting as an example that Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Neil M. Gorsuch did not recuse themselves when dealing with cases involving their book publisher, Penguin Random House. But the Thomases’ case, Roth said, is different because of the importance of the Jan. 6 riot in American history.

“There should be a recusal,” Roth said of the Thomases’ case. “But again, I’m sort of on the side of there should be more recusals. … There is an exacting standard that exists and that’s simply not being followed through on, and I think that is a shame and it hurts, impugns the integrity of the institution.”

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