Calls for Clarence Thomas Recusal Intensify in Wake of Wife's 1/6 Texts

A growing number of legal experts and lawmakers believe Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from judicial decisions related to the events of January 6, 2021 after the revelations about his wife Virginia Thomas' text messages with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

The Washington Post and CBS News together reported on Thursday that Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist, had sent numerous text messages to Meadows ahead of the January 6, 2021 attack against the U.S. Capitol. Those messages expressed strong support for efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and also advised the then White House official regarding legal counsel former President Donald Trump should utilize.

"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," Virginia Thomas wrote in a November 10 message to Meadows. She also told the Trump administration official that controversial right-wing attorney Sidney Powell should be "the lead and the face" of efforts to overturn President Joe Biden's win.

As the news broke this week, some Democratic lawmakers and a number of legal experts raised alarms. Even some conservative legal experts said that Clarence Thomas should consider recusal from cases related to January 6 and Trump's efforts to overturn Biden's win.

Adam White, a senior fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, where he focuses on the Supreme Court, told The Washington Post for a Friday article that he generally has dismissed criticism of the Thomas' and not agreed that that Supreme Court justice should recuse himself because of his wife's work. However, White said that the news of the text messages is "somewhat different because they pertain to a specific course of events that did give rise to Supreme Court litigation."

"This does raise real questions about the need for Justice Thomas to recuse from future cases related to the Jan. 6 insurrection," he assessed.

Clarence and Virginia Thomas
Legal experts and lawmakers are calling for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases related to January 6, 2021. Above, Thomas sits with his wife and conservative activist Virginia Thomas while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Other legal experts have been more pointed in their calls for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself.

"Clarence Thomas cannot sit on any matter involving the election, the invasion of the Capitol, or the work of the January 6 Committee," New York University law professor Stephen Gillers told The New Yorker, asserting that the judge's wife "crossed a line."

"I agree fully with NYU's Stephen Gillers," Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe tweeted on Friday. "Justice Thomas must take no part in the consideration of any case related to the 2020 election, the 1/6 Committee, the attempted coup, or the insurrection."

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told MSNBC that "the public's confidence in the Court is being called into question." He said that the text messages "warrant a response from the court" and that the issue should "concern" Thomas.

"Ginni & Clarence Thomas, Mark Meadows & Donald Trump: Corruption at the White House meets - and joins forces with - corruption at the Supreme Court," former U.S. Army prosecutor Glenn Kirschner tweeted.

In a Saturday article for The Hill, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, contended that Virginia Thomas' messages to Meadows are protected speech and that she did not do anything criminal. However, he suggested Clarence Thomas could have considered recusing himself from January 6 cases.

"If Thomas knew of his wife's messages, recusal could have avoided the 'appearance' of a conflict, even if all of the emails were previously disclosed. That is the standard governing recusal questions for lower court judges, although the justices — wrongly, in my view — maintain they are not controlled by the Code of Judicial Ethics," Turley wrote.

Some lawmakers have begun calling for recusal as well.

"At the bare minimum, Justice Thomas needs to recuse himself from any case related to the January 6th investigation, and should Donald Trump run again, any case related to the 2024 election," Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said in a Friday statement.

"In light of new reporting from numerous outlets, Justice Thomas' conduct on the Supreme Court looks increasingly corrupt," he continued.

Some have called for his removal from the court altogether.

"Clarence Thomas needs to be impeached," Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, tweeted.

Representative Ted Lieu, a California Democrat, wrote on Twittter: "The Supreme Court's power relies on the trust the people place on Justices to act in the public interest, not their own personal interest. Justice Clarence Thomas' corruption in trying to cover up the crazy stuff Ginni Thomas did is a dagger to the Supreme Court's reputation."

Clarence Thomas, 73, is currently the longest-serving judge on the nation's top court. The associate justice, who is widely seen as one of the most conservative of the nine Supreme Court judges, assumed office in 1991 after being nominated by former Republican President George H.W. Bush.

His wife previously told the Washington Free Beacon this month that her husband "doesn't discuss his work with me, and I don't involve him in my work."

Newsweek reached out to the Supreme Court's public information office for comment from Thomas and/or the judicial body but did not immediately receive a response.