What Does Clarence Thomas Know?
And when did he know it?
“I’ve seen a lot in my life, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Over the last several years, I’ve written some form of this line on countless occasions. And each time it proves to be true. We are in an arms race with absurdity, but this is not a farce. It is a tragedy.
In what seems like a lifetime ago, we were talking about the historic nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, and the shameful display of the Republican senators at her confirmation hearing. Now, another story around the court crowds out the news around Judge Jackson. It concerns Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
I suspect most of you are up to some sort of speed on this story, although it changes faster than Superman in a phone booth. Except, sadly, there are no superheroes here. Instead the backdrop is the violent insurrection of January 6, in which there are numerous pieces of evidence suggesting Ms. Thomas was deeply involved. Lest there be any doubt, this was an attempt to overthrow a presidential election, culminating (but not ending) with that shameful storming of the Capitol by rioters bent on keeping their dear leader in the White House.
We already knew a lot about this storyline, but today proved that there still is a potential for surprise — or more accurately, horror. This is a smoking gun in the form of text messages between Ms. Thomas and the White House chief of staff at the time, Mark Meadows.
This is how The Washington Post reported it:
The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results.
On Nov. 10, after news organizations had projected Joe Biden the winner based on state vote totals, Thomas wrote to Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!...You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
When Meadows wrote to Thomas on Nov. 24, the White House chief of staff invoked God to describe the effort to overturn the election. “This is a fight of good versus evil,” Meadows wrote. “Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs. Do not grow weary in well doing. The fight continues. I have staked my career on it. Well at least my time in DC on it.”
Thomas replied: “Thank you!! Needed that! This plus a conversation with my best friend just now… I will try to keep holding on. America is worth it!”
It is unclear to whom Thomas was referring.
(Many suspect Ms. Thomas’ reference to “my best friend” refers to her husband.)
Let’s be clear with what we already know. We had arguably the greatest attempt to undermine the workings of American democracy since the Civil War. It was stoked by President Trump and his frenzied cabal of true believers. It was violent, and its one aim was to prevent Joe Biden, the duly elected winner, from assuming the presidency.
It was a coup attempt. It would have sparked a constitutional crisis that would have torn apart this nation. It continues to cast a shadow over the United States at a moment when there is no shortage of external peril. And yet the greatest danger may still be from within.
Here’s a chilling case in point. In the hearing today for Judge Jackson, the Alabama attorney general refused to denounce the Big Lie about President Biden’s election; rather, he embraced it, despite repeated clear and direct questioning:
This isn’t fringe. This is gospel for much of the Republican Party, still beholden to the disgraced but shamelessly unrepentant instigator in chief.
And this brings us back to Justice Thomas, who, by the way, has apparently been in the hospital for several days with a severe infection and very few updates on the status of his health. Was he trying to protect his wife when he was the lone dissent in a case about handing over documents to the congressional committee investigating January 6? What else might he know? Recusal is a bare minimum. The questions go much deeper.
I think Chris Hayes frames it about right:
But here’s the thing that eats at me, or at least whatever is left of the instincts that guided me into a life of reporting. You don’t report hunches. You have to be careful about not seeing ghosts where there are none. The most outrageous explanations are usually the quickest to be debunked. But...but...but….
How many times in this sordid saga of the Trump presidency did the story go in directions that would make a Hollywood scriptwriter blush with shame if they had written something so preposterous? Truth has regularly galloped past the limits of fiction. The half-life of outrage can be measured in nanoseconds.
There are so many questions that remain not only unanswered, but, indeed, unasked. There are likely many questions that we don’t even know enough to think of asking.
We have to be careful not to let our suppositions drift into fantasy. But at the same time, we need to expand the bounds of our imagination.
The people who fomented the lies around the election hate America, or at least the America defined by our Constitution and the arc of our history. That includes the wife of a Supreme Court justice. It includes an ex-president and his army of enablers. It is desperately important that we uncover where else this web of shame extends, and who else it ensnares.
The Constitution of the United States, to which Justice Thomas swore an oath, demands it. And so do the health, safety, and security of the country, the rule of law, and the very continuation of our democracy.