Apprehending The Supreme Court's Bonnie And Clyde
What is to be done about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his deranged spouse?
That vexed question arose again this week when the Washington Post and CBS News revealed dozens of text messages exchanged by Virginia Thomas, the right-wing jurist's wife, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows during the period following the 2020 election. Those messages spectacularly confirmed what The New Yorker and The New York Times have reported in recent months about Ginni Thomas and her feverish participation in former President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn that election.
From her communications with the former president's top aide, Ginni appears to be a disturbed personality who traffics in comic-book conspiracies and disparages political opponents as "evil." Unless he was just humoring her, Meadows displayed a similarly manic disposition, predicting that the "King of Kings" would save Trump's presidency and America. (He was committing voter fraud himself at the time, but that's another story.)
Evidently Mrs. Thomas believed whatever mad claims advanced her partisan will to overturn the 2020 election and keep Trump in office. It seems not to have mattered to her at all when her husband's colleagues on the highest court, including the hardcore conservatives, rejected Trump's claims of voter fraud.
Like many on the Republican Right, where she has a long history of dubious activity, Mrs. Thomas had decided in advance that any election result displeasing to her was by definition crooked. Of course, that position is itself inherently fraudulent — but such bad faith has been endemic among so-called conservatives for decades.
On Nov. 5, 2020, the day after the election, Mrs. Thomas sent Meadows a link to a YouTube video titled "TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN." A former employee of the State Department, Pieczenik is one of those right-wing fabulists who dismissed the 2012 school massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut, as a "false-flag" deception. In the video sent by Mrs. Thomas, Pieczenik appeared on InfoWars, the Alex Jones conspiracy broadcast, to proclaim that Trump had somehow marked every 2020 mail ballot with an "encryption code" in a "sting operation" against the Democratic Party.
"I hope this is true; never heard anything like this before, or even a hint of it," she wrote to Meadows. "Possible???..Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states." She also forwarded news that the "Biden crime family" and various other officials and journalists were "being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition."
None of it was "possible" or even coherent. Yet such were her frothing messages, often recirculating the latest lunacy from the QAnon conspiracy cult. She was a big fan of Sidney Powell, the Trump lawyer kicked out after declaring that President Joe Biden's victory was covertly engineered by communists in Venezuela and China. Her firing puzzled poor Ginni.
Now, all this mindless maundering would be solely a matter for psychiatric intervention, except that Ginni Thomas is married to a Supreme Court justice. Specifically, the only justice who dissented from the high court's decision on the Trump election case — and later held that Trump could withhold White House documents, including those we now know might implicate his wife, from the House Select Committee investigating the attempt to overturn the election.
Did he know what his wife was doing — or how his rulings might affect her and the right-wing groups that were in some cases paying her? In The New Yorker, reporter Jane Mayer made a convincing argument that Justice Thomas must have known about the hysterically seditious antics of his "best friend." In case after case that implicated her interests, he not only failed to recuse himself but didn't even disclose his obvious conflict.
Clarence and Ginni Thomas can play these sleazy games because, bizarrely enough, the Supreme Court is not subject to the federal code of judicial conduct. Any judge on a lower court who behaved like him would be subject to discipline and possibly removal.
The time has come for Congress to pass legislation that would restore the highest court's honor, dignity and credibility by bringing it under the ethics code. That process can begin with hearings in the House and Senate judiciary committees on the matter of Clarence Thomas. If he won't resign and can't be impeached, his gross misconduct must at least be publicly exposed.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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