Conservative political activist Virginia Thomas told her husband Justice Clarence Thomas’s former law clerks that she was sorry for a rift that developed among them after her election advocacy of President Donald Trump and endorsement of the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. that resulted in violence and death at the Capitol.
“My passions and beliefs are likely shared with the bulk of you, but certainly not all. And sometimes the smallest matters can divide loved ones for too long. Let’s pledge to not let politics divide THIS family, and learn to speak more gently and knowingly across the divide.”
A sampling of posts made to the group were shared with The Washington Post by a member upset with some of the pro-Trump messages written by Ginni Thomas and others in the lead-up and aftermath of the election. Thomas did not respond to requests for comment. Several former clerks, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the listserv is private, verified the dispute in what is normally an affable setting meant to celebrate achievements of the clerk “family.”
Besides the friction there, Thomas has drawn outrage among liberals for public political commentary on her “Ginni Thomas” Facebook page. Her comments there celebrated Trump’s supporters who assembled in D.C. on Jan. 6, hundreds of whom stormed the Capitol, resulting in the deaths of five people.
In the early morning post, Thomas encouraged her Facebook followers to watch the day’s events unfold on conservative news media, writing, “LOVE MAGA people!!!!”
She added in another: “GOD BLESS EACH OF YOU STANDING UP or PRAYING.”
Thomas later appended an apparent disclaimer that said, “[Note: written before violence in US Capitol],” according to Mark Joseph Stern of Slate.com, who first wrote about the posts. The Facebook account is no longer visible.
Additionally, there have been unfounded charges on social media that Ginni Thomas played a role in helping to pay for bus transportation for some of those attending the rally. Reporters at The Washington Post, the New York Times and elsewhere, including Stern, found those claims were false.
Thomas’s political commentary has made her a controversial figure; most Supreme Court spouses stay out of politics. But she was active in conservative causes before she met Clarence Thomas, and they married in 1987, before he was on the bench, first on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and then the Supreme Court.
Judicial ethics experts generally say the views of a judge’s spouse should not be attributed to the jurist, although they can create an appearance problem. Thomas, who is the senior member of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, has never recused himself because of his wife’s public comments about an issue.
Thomas has made clear her opposition to the Affordable Care Act, for instance, and other initiatives of the Obama administration. This summer, she tried to get the small Virginia town of Clifton to take down a Black Lives Matter banner. “Let’s not be tricked into joining cause with radical extremists seeking to foment a cultural revolution because they hate America,” she wrote to town leaders.
She has been a delegate to the Republican National Convention. And after first endorsing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) for president, she became an ardent Trump supporter, meeting with the president at the White House to advise on political appointees. When Trump gathered supporters at the White House to celebrate his acquittal at his first Senate impeachment trial, she was among those invited.
She does not appear to have made public comments about the election results while the Supreme Court disposed of Trump-related challenges.
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But on the clerk email list, she appears crestfallen by Trump’s defeat.
“Many of us are hurting, after leaving it all on the field, to preserve the best of this country,” she wrote. “I feel I have failed my parents who did their best and taught me to work to preserve liberties.”
The Thomas Clerk World email group, usually filled with congratulatory notes about job changes and promotions and baby announcements, has a blue-ribbon membership.
Former Thomas clerks played significant roles in the Trump administration and were heavily represented in Trump’s choices for the federal judiciary — more than any other justice’s former acolytes. Some clerks are prominent in conservative media, and among law professors.
Clarence Thomas is not said to be active in the group chats — one former clerk could not remember ever seeing a comment from the justice — and the person who supplied the posting to The Post added: “Ginni does not speak for CT.”
The internal discord concerned pro-Trump postings and former Thomas clerk John Eastman, who spoke at the rally and represented Trump in some of his failed lawsuits filed to overturn the election results.
After one law professor posted an article from Christianity Today about how rioters usurped religious symbols in the storming of the Capitol, former clerk Wendy Stone Long called it “offensive drivel” and wondered why it was shared.
“Many of my friends and I had been praying our knees off that January 6 would see light and truth being shed on what we believe in our hearts was likely a stolen election,” and that eventually “President Trump would be determined to be the legitimate winner,” wrote Long, a two-time U.S. Senate candidate from New York.
“Many of us marched peacefully and yes, many also prayed and shared another important message, ‘Jesus saves,’ ” she added.
Long did not respond to a request for comment.
Eastman parted ways with Chapman University, where he served as dean of the law school, after speaking at the rally. He wrote to the clerks group: “Rest assured that those of us involved in this are working diligently to ascertain the truth.”
That brought an angry response from Stephen F. Smith, a law professor at Notre Dame.
“If by ‘truth’ you mean what actually happened, as opposed to a false narrative, then I agree,” Smith wrote. “I hope (and trust) that you — and everyone on this list — agree that the search for truth doesn’t in any way justify insurrection, trying to kidnap and assassinate elected officials, attacking police officers, or making common cause with racists and anti-Semites bent on wanton violence and lawlessness.”
Smith declined to comment about his post, and Eastman did not respond to requests for comment.
Thomas seemed to be seeking a peacemaking role in her Jan. 18 message to clerks.
“I would ask those of you on the contrary side to have grace and mercy on those on my side of the polarized world, and feel free to call and talk to me individually about where I failed you as a friend here. I probably need more tutoring,” she wrote.
“Otherwise, on behalf of both of us, be assured of our love for each of you.”