Virginia “Ginni” Thomas — the far right political activist who is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — is once again in the news due to reports that the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack has unearthed a string of email correspondenceBetween her and John Eastman, a conservative attorney who pushed Mike Pence not to certify the election results which ushered in Donald Trump out of office.
Reporters have not yet accessed details about the email thread’s contents, but its existence alone has raised even more red flags about Ginni Thomas’s alleged involvement in Trump’s plot to overturn the election.
According to CNBC, the January 6 committee announced today that it now plans to “invite Ginni Thomas to testify about her involvement in efforts to reverse Donald Trump’s presidential election loss.”
This is not the first time that evidence has emerged about Ginni Thomas’s role in strategizing ways to find legal rationales to pressure Mike Pence to essentially declare various state elections null and void, and simply reinstall Trump as president.
The January 6 investigation by the House committee was completed in March. text messages that Ginni Thomas sent to former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, urging her to keep fighting to overturn the election results. Stories like these are becoming more common. calls have grown for Clarence Thomas to recuse himselfAll Supreme Court cases relating elections and their legitimacy. To date, he refused to withdraw.
This is a tragic story that becomes more horrifying the more we learn. Last week’s devastating revelation was that in the weeks after the election, Ginni Thomas contacted 29 Arizona legislators, urging each and every one of them to decertify Arizona’s vote and instead “choose” alternative electors who would cast their lot with Trump. They would have taken a deliberate step to overturn democracy in America and would have done so if they had.
Thomas isn’t some lone eccentric simply trying to project her personal opinion. She is a prominent operative on board of a shadowy right-wing coordinating group called the Council for National Policy (CNP).
In the mid-1990s, after I had graduated from journalism school, and was ready to accept any freelance assignment, I worked as a researcher for several months on a book called The Armchair Activist. It documented the various organizations that made up the spine of the U.S.’s fast-growing far right and ultraconservative movements, and was intended as a how-to handbook providing organizing tools for progressives to counter these groups.
One of the most memorable memories of the project is the CNP’s tentacle-like behind the scenes power. Out of the public eye, the organization, which had been set up 15 years earlier, in 1981, quietly but extraordinarily effectively developed policy goals — and organizing methods to reach those goals — that covered pretty much everything from restricting the franchise, to demolishing the social safety net, to ending access to abortion and expanding access to guns.
The New York Times CNP was correctly labeled as such by the CNP “little known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the county.”Think of it as an exclusive country club with conservative icons like the Koch brothers, DeVoses and Scaifes.,Among other prominent luminaries of the right, Ginni Thomas is one of them. They meet up to brainstorm and share their ideas with less-wealthy but more politically connected women and men like Ginni Thomas.
It has grown in power over the years. During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, the CNP met, in secret, for a three-day strategy meetingTo plot a way to implement a hyper-conservative religious, social, and cultural agenda given the new conservative majority at the Supreme Court. Attendees included a slew of top Republican political figures — including Rep. Jim Jordan — conservative donors, and Christian-right leaders.
March 2020 Vice President Mike Pence thanked the organization for “consistently amplifying the agenda of President Trump.” That same year, Trump himself spoke for a full hour at the organization’s annual meeting.
When I was researching The Armchair ActivistI can recall drawing a series diagrams, placing the CNP in the middle, and then explaining to my fellow researchers, with great theatricality how all these organizations and individuals connected through this coordinating hub.
In the decades since, every so often I’ve encountered a policy or organizing effort in which the CNP was involved and been startled, all over again, at just how powerful this secretive organization is.
In 100 years, historians will be able to examine the crucial role of the CNP in shaping and implementing the right-wing agenda.
That the spouse of a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice is a board member of this group and an activist pushing its radical right causes, ought to give anyone who cares both about the state of U.S. democracy and about the legitimacy and independence of the country’s top judicial institution serious pause. In a stunning exposé earlier this year, The New York Times MagazineGinni Thomas was argued to be the most outspoken political activist spouse of a sitting Supreme Court Justice in American history.
The Thomases claim that there is somehow an iron wall separating their two careers — that Clarence Thomas has nothing to do with Ginni Thomas’s political organizing efforts. That’s clearly not the case. 2002 was a year of great change. Justice Thomas was a headline speaker at a CNP gatheringOutside Washington, D.C. Trump was desperate to hold onto power in 2020. The CNP was at the heart of the messaging effort to portray the election as stolen. The Supreme Court repeatedly rejected Trump’s campaign efforts to reverse state results. Clarence Thomas came closer than other justices to entertaining sympathies for at least some of the Trump arguments, in particular vis-à-vis the nebulous notion that there had been widespread election fraud in November 2020.
His dissentIn Pennsylvania, one of the lawsuits regarding mail-in votes drew heavily from arguments developed by CNP and other groups.
Had Arizona’s legislators responded to pressure from the CNP and other right-wing groups by overturning their state’s election result, all hell would have broken loose. It would have created a constitutional crisis and likely led to mass protests. The Supreme Court would most likely have to intervene in the arbitration process.
Clarence Thomas was also the lone dissenter to the Supreme Court’s January order rejecting Trump’s bid to withhold documents from the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack. Perhaps he did this out of genuine legal concern about precedents that could be set in the ongoing power struggle between the legislative and executive branches. It’s at least possible, however, that he was concerned that his spouse’s intemperate emails and other exchanges would, if the documents were released, become part of the public record. Ginni Thomas may have mentioned to him how involved she was with the efforts to contest the 2020 election results.
It is incredible to think that, in a moment when the country is in national peril the future of the nation hangs not on weighty legal arguments but on at home conversations between a U.S. Supreme Court Justice and his far-right activist spouse.