Ginni Thomas pushed White House to fight 2020 election results. What are the implications?

The House Select Committee is looking at thousands of text messages given by former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows. At issue are 29 texts between Meadows and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in which she pushed the White House to fight 2020 election results. The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who has reported on Ginni Thomas's advocacy, joins Lisa Desjardins to discuss.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    A trove of text messages that former President Trump's top aide handed over to the January 6 Select Committee have revealed an unexpected player in the effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

    Lisa Desjardins explains.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, the House select committee is looking at more than 2,000 text messages provided by former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

    At issue here, 29 texts between Meadows and Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She has long been a conservative activist. The messages reviewed by CNN, CBS, and The Washington Post show she pushed the Trump White House to fight the results of the 2020 election after it was called for Joe Biden.

    On November 10, she texted Meadows: "Help this great president stand firm. The majority knows Biden and the left is attempting the greatest heist of our history," in her words, per those reported texts.

    At the same time, Trump was appealing directly to the Supreme Court to intervene on his behalf. He tweeted on November 6: "I easily win the presidency of the United States with legal votes cast. U.S. Supreme Court should decide."

    Jane Mayer of "The New Yorker" has reported on Ginni Thomas, her activism, and the Supreme Court. And she joins me now.

    I feel right at the top, of course, we all know that the presidential election was settled law. It was legally held, and Joe Biden was the winner.

    Looking at these texts that three outlets have confirmed for us, Jane, overall, what is the wife of the justice saying in these texts to the chief of staff of the president?

    Jane Mayer, "The New Yorker": Well, she's arguing that the 2020 election was what she calls the greatest heist in American history, and that the results that were certified were a fraud, and that it had to be stopped, and that the chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to Trump had to step in and do something to try to keep Trump in office.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Now, these texts don't mention Justice Thomas by name, and both Justice Thomas and Ginni Thomas have said they keep their work separate.

    But I do want to raise one text that people are looking at, first attacks from Chief of Staff Meadows.

  • He wrote:

    "This is a fight of good against evil. Evil always looks like the victor until the king of kings triumphs."

  • Ginni Thomas responded:

    "Thank you. Needed that. This plus a conversation with my best friend just now."

    We do not know who that best friend was. We know that she and her husband have referred to each other as best friend in the past.

    I want to ask you, first of all broadly, to get our hands around this, are there legal and ethical issues for a Supreme Court justice? What are the rules for a Supreme Court justice in this area of potential conflict of interests?

  • Jane Mayer:

    Well, so, I have been reporting on this and interviewing several of the country's foremost experts on judicial ethics.

    And what is fascinating about this new material is that several of these ethics experts on the law said that Clarence Thomas and Ginni Thomas in these particular situations have crossed the red lines. And what are the red lines?

    Well, the Supreme Court, as we know, is not bound by the judicial code of ethics that applies to all other federal judges in the lower courts. The Supreme Court sort of self-enforces its own ethics code. But it is bound by U.S. law.

    There is U.S. — a U.S. statute that says that any judge and any justice has to step aside from any case in which their spouse has an interest in the outcome of the proceedings. And what these ethics experts have said to me is that you look at these e-mails, and you can't but see that Ginni Thomas had an interest in the proceeding that was in front of Clarence Thomas, which was about whether this kind of material and more material from President Trump would ever surface and see the light of day.

    And that was what was the issue being argued in front of the court that Clarence Thomas sat on in January. He didn't recuse himself, even though it seems now, in looking over this material, that his wife's involvement in the plot to overturn the 2020 election stood in — a good chance of coming out, depending on how the court ruled in that proceeding.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Mark Meadows' attorney did put out a statement saying there is nothing illegal in these texts.

    The biggest question at this moment for now — we will see where this goes — this is just the beginning of the story — is whether Justice Thomas should recuse himself going forward, especially on January 6-related cases.

    Just to wrap this up, where we are now, Jane, that choice is entirely up to him; is that right?

  • Jane Mayer:

    Well, in the past in our history, chief justices have sometimes pressured justices to step aside. That has happened before.

    And, in this case, we have these judicial ethics experts, such as Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU, who is saying that Clarence Thomas just must step aside from — and recuse from any cases that would have to do with the January 6 uprisings and the efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

    It's up to Clarence Thomas, of course, at the end of the day. But there is sort of a rising pressure, I would say, on him to recuse in these cases.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Well, we hope to hear from Justice Thomas in the days ahead.

    And thank you for talking to us tonight, Jane Mayer of "The New Yorker."

  • Jane Mayer:

    Great to be with you.

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