The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol has started contacting witnesses to appear before the American public during its hearings in June — and it is interested in hearing from officials from the Trump White House, Justice Department and Vice President Mike Pence’s team.
At least one of Pence’s top aides has been requested to appear so far, according to people familiar with the investigation.
But behind closed doors, committee staffers are still collecting evidence and wrapping up key depositions and interviews.
Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, however, is unlikely to be a part of the committee’s final push.
Even as the evidence detailing her involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election mounts and scrutiny of individuals linked to the alternate elector plan has ramped up, the committee is unlikely to add the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the list of individuals it has attempted to question.
The latest revelations, first reported by The Washington Post last week, show that the conservative activist pressed Arizona lawmakers to ignore Joe Biden’s popular-vote victory over President Donald Trump and choose a “clean slate of Electors.”
Ginni Thomas sent emails to two Arizona lawmakers on Nov. 9, 2020 — just weeks before her husband joined Justice Samuel Alito in indicating they would have considered a challenge some GOP-led states brought against election procedures in four swing states won by Biden.
This year, the committee had been considering requesting that Thomas appear for a voluntary interview after The Post reported that she repeatedly urged White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in text messages to pursue any avenue necessary to overturn the election results.
That request, however, has been put on ice as lawmakers on the House panel have expressed concerns about allowing a focus on Thomas to divert attention from Trump, according to people familiar with the committee’s discussions who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments.
“It might take the focus off of Trump — it could well trump the Trump story,” a person close to the investigation said.
People familiar with the investigation also argue that the cumulative evidence collected by investigators so far hasn’t warranted calling Thomas in.
“The committee isn’t prioritizing engagement with witnesses based on political considerations. These decisions are about what best advances the investigation as we prepare for hearings and develop our findings and recommendations,” a person familiar with the investigation said.
A minority of lawmakers on the nine-member panel, according to people involved with the investigation, disagree and fear the decision to not call in or subpoena Thomas could undermine the committee’s credibility.
The decision is bound to disappoint some congressional Democrats and liberal activists who have railed against Clarence Thomas’s choice not to recuse himself from cases involving the Jan. 6 attack or efforts to overturn the 2020 election, though it is unlikely his wife would even comply with a voluntary request.
Recent reporting has renewed scrutiny of Ginni Thomas’s communications and close ties with some of the key figures at the heart of Trump’s efforts to overturn the results. About a decade ago, she helped to found Groundswell, a conservative group that considered “election integrity” among its earliest priorities.
Though she has at times expressed a willingness to call Thomas in, the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), is among the lawmakers who have leaned against taking aim at the wife of the Supreme Court’s longest-tenured justice, who is an icon for many on the right.
Some Democrats on the committee, for different reasons, have also wanted to tread lightly.
“Democrats in Congress are going to be in front of the Supreme Court for some time,” a second person close to the committee said. “Dragging Ginni in front of the committee would be a Pyrrhic victory.”
Another person involved with the investigation noted that Thomas’s pressure campaign is more notable because of her spouse but that her actions, compared to what many GOP lawmakers were doing at the time, were “par for the course.”
Thomas did not respond to a request for comment.
Stanley Brand, a congressional ethics expert who is also representing individuals involved with the Jan. 6 investigation, said he believed contacting Thomas would underscores the committee’s overreach. “The level of detail and specifics they have sought and obtained isn’t a part of the legislative domain,” Brand said.
Other experts, however, say that Thomas’s emails to Arizona lawmakers offer a troubling road map for future plots to challenge election results.
With election-deniers seeking or holding office in states that will ultimately decide the winner of the 2024 presidential election, they say, Republicans are setting up an apparatus to potentially implement some of the anti-democratic legal theories being pushed by Thomas, former Trump lawyer John Eastman and others, such as persuading state lawmakers to override the popular vote in key states and appoint new electors.
“We now have reason to think that [Ginni Thomas] was one of the people involved in the attempt to get phony slates of electors certified or submitted without anything other than fake certifications in the electoral college. That is a recipe for using the electoral college to steal the election from the voters themselves and calling it,” Harvard law professor emeritus Laurence Tribe said.
“Even if Ginni were not married to a Supreme Court justice who refuses to recuse himself from related cases, she is someone who really ought to be investigated by authorities in Arizona and the Department of Justice as a co-conspirator of the plot to steal the election,” Tribe added.
The committee is expected to contact former Justice Department, White House and Trump advisers in the coming days, people familiar with the matter said.
Trump personally has not been asked for any information, a person close to him said, but has been kept abreast of others appearing in front of the committee.
Pence himself is still unlikely to testify, people familiar with the matter said.
The committee has taken particular interest in recent weeks in Cassidy Hutchinson, a former top aide to Meadows, and has asked her more than a dozen hours of questions.
Excerpts of depositions and interviews released by the committee in court filings so far show Pence’s top aides and officials from the Justice Department serving as roadblocks during crucial moments where Trump and his top allies sought to implement and execute plans to overturn the results of the election.
Senior Pence adviser Marc Short and Greg Jacob, counsel to Pence, provided testimony to investigators detailing the pressure exerted on the former vice president by people like Eastman, the architect of Trump’s legal strategy to overturn the 2020 election.
Acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen, acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue and Steven A. Engel, the assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, all provided testimony regarding an Oval Office meeting before Jan. 6 in which they threatened to resign after Trump attempted to oust Rosen and install Jeffrey Clark, a Trump loyalist, in his place.