Clarence Thomas Pressured for Jan. 6 Recusal by Dozens of Democrats

Notable Democrats like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have joined the flood of lawmakers asking Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from cases involving the efforts by pro-Trump groups to overturn the 2020 election and the Capitol riot, in light of his wife's text messages on the subject.

Schumer told CNN Tuesday he thinks Clarence should recuse himself, saying, "I think there should be some kind of code of ethics for Supreme Court justices." The same day, Pelosi sarcastically said, "It's up to an individual justice to decide to recuse himself if his wife is participating in a coup," Punchbowl News reported.

The two join Senator Dick Durbin, who called for Clarence to recuse himself on any such cases on Monday, and 24 more Democrats who signed a letter on Monday to Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts with the same request.

The requests come after the revelation that Thomas' wife, Virginia Thomas, sent text messages to former President Donald Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows in support of overturning the 2020 presidential election. The 29 messages showed Virginia Thomas repeating conspiracy theories about President Joe Biden stealing the election via widespread voter fraud.

In one of her messages, Thomas told Meadows "The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History," a theory many Trump supporters have pushed despite an analysis from the Associated Press finding there was not enough voter fraud in 2020 to make a difference in the election result.

Legal experts in schools like Harvard University and New York University also called on Thomas to remove himself from January 6 cases, with one saying Virginia Thomas "crossed a line," though another legal expert from George Washington University said her comments were protected speech.

In a report, the Brookings Institution said "whether to recuse is a judicial decision, reviewable only by a higher court, and there's no court higher than the Supreme Court," meaning Thomas is the only one who can keep himself from presiding over the cases.

According to the letter from the 24 lawmakers, a group that includes Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, federal law says any judge must recuse himself if "any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned."

They said Thomas should recuse himself from the January 6 cases and issue a written explanation of why he didn't do so earlier, adding that Roberts should establish a code of conduct for the Supreme Court.

"Chief Justice Roberts has often spoken about the importance of the Supreme Court's 'credibility and legitimacy as an institution,'" the letter said. "That trust, already at all-time lows with the American public, must be earned."

Newsweek reached out to the U.S. Supreme Court but did not hear back in time for publication.

Update 03/29/22 6:15 p.m. ET: This story was updated to add more information and background.

Democrats Ask Clarence Thomas to Recuse Himself
More than 20 Democrats have called for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from January 6 cases in light of his wife Virginia Thomas' text messages. Above, Thomas sits with his wife while he waits to speak at the Heritage Foundation on October 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images