Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence 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. (Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
There are three big pieces of news out about former President Donald Trump attorney and coup plotter John Eastman ahead of the House Jan. 6 Select Committee’s scheduled hearing Thursday:First, Eastman suggested in a private email on Dec. 24, 2020, that he had insider knowledge about a “heated fight” taking place at the Supreme Court over whether they’d to hear arguments on Trump’s attempts to overturn his election loss, the New York Times reported early Thursday morning.
“The odds are not based on the legal merits but an assessment of the justices’ spines, and I understand that there is a heated fight underway,” Eastman emailed pro-Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who replied that the “odds of action before Jan. 6 will become more favorable if the justices start to fear that there will be ‘wild’ chaos on Jan. 6 unless they rule by then, either way.”Second, Eastman directly corresponded with Ginni Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as both worked to keep Trump in office after he’d lost reelection in late 2020, the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening, citing new emails the committee obtained from Eastman through a court order.Third, House Jan. 6 Select Committee Chairman and Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson said that in light of these new emails, the committee will ask Thomas to testify.“We think it’s time that we, at some point, invite her to come talk to the committee,” he said, according to Axios.The committee’s Thursday-afternoon hearing will examine the pressure Eastman and Trump put on Vice President Mike Pence to try to overturn Trump’s election loss on Jan. 6.
One big question the committee can help answer: If Eastman had inappropriate insider knowledge about internal deliberations at the Supreme Court, did he get it from Ginni Thomas?It’s worth noting that Eastman and the Thomases have deep, decades-old ties. Eastman clerked for Clarence Thomas in 1996 and 1997, early on in his career. Thomas also has ties with the Claremont Institute, where Eastman works: The Supreme Court justice has spoken there in the past and he regularly quotes the institute’s founder. That network of clerks is known to generally have remained close, even by the cozy standards of the Supreme Court.And we also know that Ginni Thomas played an active role in trying to push to overturn the 2020 results. She actively lobbied lawmakers in D.C. and in key swing states to try to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election victories, and was in touch with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and others in Trump’s orbit urging them not to concede long after it was clear Trump had lost.Ginni Thomas emailed a listserv of her husband’s clerks less than two weeks after the Capitol riot to apologize for pushing her pro-Trump activism to the group.
“I owe you all an apology. I have likely imposed on you my lifetime passions,” she wrote to a private Thomas Clerk World email list of her husband’s staff.Eastman was also on that listserv, and at one point he emailed the group that “those of us involved in this are working diligently to ascertain the truth.”Ginni Thomas has repeatedly insisted that her political activism has nothing to do with her husband’s Supreme Court work—that they keep their professional lives separate. Eastman claimed in a statement that he never discussed matters before the court with either Thomas and pointed out that newspapers had reported on an internal court fight before his email was sent, though he admitted he had been invited by her to give an update about election litigation to one of her political organizations.“I can categorically confirm that at no time did I discuss with Mrs. Thomas or Justice Thomas any matters pending or likely to come before the Court. We have never engaged in such discussions, would not engage in such discussions, and did not do so in December 2020 or anytime else. As for the email communications I had with Mrs. Thomas? As you can see for yourselves, she invited me to give an update about election litigation to a group she met with periodically,” he said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
Clarence Thomas has ignored calls to recuse himself from future Jan. 6 cases because of an apparent conflict of interest.But it’s worth noting that he was *the only* Supreme Court justice to side with Trump’s efforts to block the release of White House records pertaining to the Jan. 6 riot. That 8-1 decision opened the vault and helped the select committee gather key evidence. Did Justice Thomas not want these documents out for a reason besides a legal opinion that wasn’t held by any of the court’s other justices—including the three appointed by Trump?Eastman might have been full of it in claiming he had insider knowledge about the Supreme Court’s “heated fight.” But if he was telling the truth, it would be damn interesting to know where he got that insider info.This story has been updated to include Eastman’s comments, which were released after publication.