I don’t write about Ginni Thomas precisely because she’s a private citizen who just happens to be married to a Supreme Court Justice. No doubt, this relationship gives her a voice and influence she would not otherwise have, but she has the right to follow her own dreams and pursuits. There’s a solid case to make that she ought to refrain from partisan political activity through her own discretion, as her actions inevitably raise skepticism about the impartiality of her husband’s rulings, but her unseemly decisions are constitutionally protected, and I don’t think a husband should dictate to his wife about what she can and cannot do in the political sphere.
On the other hand, her political activities do create complications for Justice Thomas when they involve issues or parties that have business before the Supreme Court, and there are instances where Thomas has a clear conflict of interest as a result. The furor over Thomas’s vote against the January 6 investigation getting access to Trump administration records is a prime example of this. Thomas was the only Justice to vote to deny this access, and it’s clear that the records included information pertaining to Ginni and her role in supporting a coup d’etat.
His refusal to recuse himself from that case is now being pushed as a rationale for his impeachment, along with calls for him to voluntarily resign. For Joseph Klein, this is nothing more than a smear campaign, but his argument is disingenuous. Look at how he frames the question:
Justice Thomas’s wife Ginni is an outspoken conservative activist. She is also a private citizen who does not forfeit her constitutional right to express her opinions about the 2020 election or any other matter of public interest just because her husband is currently a Supreme Court justice.
Whatever happened to the feminist role model of the independent woman who should not have to be afraid to speak her own mind and pursue her own career, whether married or not? Apparently, Ms. Thomas was expected to keep her opinions to herself lest they be automatically attributed to her husband through guilt by marriage. How retrograde the Left can be when their target is a conservative woman married to a conservative Supreme Court justice they detest!
The idea here is that the left is hypocritical and using a double standard. Klein insists that Thomas is not at all implicated in the coup attempt. As for Ginni, she was only parroting the line the White House was pushing and, while she attended the January 6 rally at the Ellipse, she did not walk down Pennsylvania Avenue and join the insurrection. Therefore, the criticism is much ado about nothing. But even Klein acknowledges that the demands of Thomas are rather specific: if he will not resign, he should at least not sit in judgment of cases that pertain to January 6.
This all looks like a lame attempt by the Left to use the First Amendment-protected expressions of opinion by Justice Thomas’s wife as an excuse to boot Justice Thomas from the Supreme Court. If that gambit fails, which is likely, then Justice Thomas’s enemies are demanding that he recuse himself from participating in any future cases involving the events of January 6th and efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The issue, of course, is that Ginni Thomas was not a run-of-the-mill election conspiracist. She was texting back and forth with Jared Kushner and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff. The full extent of her involvement with the coup attempt is unknown, and that’s the point. In attempting to shield the records from Congress, Justice Thomas was attempting to shield his wife.
And he wasn’t trying to protect her from some ordinary scrutiny, but from disclosure about her role in an attempted coup. Common sense argues that Thomas should have recused himself. It’s hard to craft a convincing argument otherwise, and Klein’s attempt is unconvincing.
I’d also like to point out that the First Amendment is doing a lot of work in this case, and that’s to be commended. Most self-respecting governments have little tolerance for coup attempts, and the husband of a coup plotter or advocate would not expect to escape repercussions just because he wasn’t directly implicated. At a minimum, such a person wouldn’t be allowed to continue serving on the highest court in the land. But America doesn’t do guilt by association, even in such an extreme case, and America also isn’t racing to arrest Ginni Thomas because it respects her right to assembly and free speech.
That she remains more of a witness than a suspect, and Thomas remains on the Court is a testimony of the strength of our First Amendment, due process, and presumption of innocence. However, attempting to stage a coup remains the more serious of crimes, and there is an investigation to conduct. If Ginni violated any laws, she should be prosecuted, but her husband should have no say in this, either way.