Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court justice, pressed Ariz. lawmakers to help reverse Trump’s loss, emails show

https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2022/05/20/ginni-thomas-arizona-election-emails/

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, attends the swearing-in ceremony for Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Oct. 26, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/AP)
 

Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona lawmakers after the 2020 election to set aside Joe Biden’s popular-vote victory and choose “a clean slate of Electors,” according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

 

The emails, sent by Ginni Thomas to a pair of lawmakers on Nov. 9, 2020, argued that legislators needed to intervene because the vote had been marred by fraud. Though she did not mention either candidate by name, the context was clear.

Just days after media organizations called the race for Biden in Arizona and nationwide, Thomas urged the lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.” She told the lawmakers that the responsibility to choose electors was “yours and yours alone” and said they had “power to fight back against fraud.”

 
 

Thomas sent the messages via an online platform designed to make it easy to send prewritten form emails to multiple elected officials, according to a review of the emails, obtained under the state’s public-records law.

The messages show that Thomas, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, was more deeply involved in the effort to overturn Biden’s win than has been previously reported. In sending the emails, Thomas played a role in the extraordinary scheme to keep Trump in office by substituting the will of legislatures for the will of voters.

Thomas’s actions also underline concerns about potential conflicts of interest that her husband has already faced — and may face in the future — in deciding cases related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Those questions intensified in March, when The Post and CBS News obtained text messages that Thomas sent in late 2020 to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, pressing him to help reverse the election.

The emails were sent to Russell “Rusty” Bowers, a veteran legislator and speaker of the Arizona House, and Shawnna Bolick, who was first elected to the chamber in 2018 and served on the House Elections Committee during the 2020 session.

“Article II of the United States Constitution gives you an awesome responsibility: to choose our state’s Electors,” read the Nov. 9 email. “… [P]lease take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen.”

 
 

Thomas’s name also appears on an email to the two representatives on Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college met to cast their votes and seal Biden’s victory. “Before you choose your state’s Electors … consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead,” the email said.

It included a link to a video of a man delivering a message meant for swing-state lawmakers, urging them to “put things right” and “not give in to cowardice.”

“You have only hours to act,” said the speaker, who is not identified in the video.

By December, the claim that legislators should override the popular vote in key states and appoint Trump’s electors was also being pushed publicly by John C. Eastman, a former law clerk to Clarence Thomas, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Lawyers John C. Eastman, left, and Rudy Giuliani address Trump supporters on the Ellipse in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Trump allies argued that pandemic-era changes in election administration and supposedly widespread fraud meant that elections had not been conducted in accordance with state legislatures’ directions and that, under the U.S. Constitution, the results therefore could be cast aside. Many legal experts have called those arguments unpersuasive and anti-democratic, and no state legislature complied. Efforts to persuade state lawmakers to name new electors are among the issues under examination by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.

 
 

Courts turned back dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies in an attempt to challenge the 2020 election outcome, and there is no evidence of voting machine manipulation or other widespread fraud.

Ginni Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not respond to messages seeking comment from Clarence Thomas.

Ginni Thomas has insisted that she and her husband have kept their work separate, but her political activism has set her apart from other Supreme Court spouses. About a decade ago, she and Stephen K. Bannon — who later became chief strategist in the Trump White House — were among the organizers of Groundswell, a group formed to battle liberals and establishment Republicans. Groundswell dedicated itself to “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to emails uncovered by Mother Jones at the time. “Election integrity” was among the topics discussed in the group’s first months, the emails show.

 
 

Thomas’s influence in Washington grew during the Trump presidency as her views moved into the GOP mainstream. Clarence and Ginni Thomas had lunch with Trump at the White House in 2018, then attended a state dinner the following year. Also in 2019, she and fellow right-wing activists attended a White House luncheon, where the New York Times reported that they told Trump his aides were blocking their preferred candidates for administration appointments.

Over those same years, at annual luncheons, Thomas handed out “Impact Awards” to right-wing figures. Recipients have included Meadows, then a congressman chairing the hard-right Freedom Caucus; Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe; and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Thomas is a member of the Council for National Policy, a network of prominent conservative activists, some of whom helped press claims of election fraud. She recently said she attended the pro-Trump rally at the Ellipse in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.

 
 

Thomas sent the emails via freeroots.com, a website meant to give political organizers an efficient means of conducting email campaigns. The email address of the sender in Thomas’s emails is displayed as “Ginni Thomas<noreply@freeroots.com>.”

A representative of FreeRoots did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The Nov. 9 email carried the subject line, “Please do your Constitutional duty!” In addition to pushing the lawmakers to appoint electors, the email asked for a meeting to discuss pursuing an “audit” of the vote.

Under the U.S. Constitution, states appoint presidential electors “in such manner” as the legislatures direct. Historically, some state legislatures appointed electors directly, but in the modern era states have delegated that responsibility to voters. In urging Arizona lawmakers to “choose” electors after Biden had already prevailed, Thomas’s messages claimed lawmakers could intervene in that process.

 
 

The records obtained by The Post do not show any response from Bowers, whose refusal to help overturn Biden’s victory in Arizona made him the target of a recall campaign. When Trump’s legal team pressed to replace Biden electors with Trump electors, Bowers released a public statement explaining that they were asking legislators to do something forbidden by state law.

“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election. I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him,” it said. “But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.”

A spokesman for Bowers told The Post that hundreds of thousands of messages were sent to the speaker’s office in the post-election period. “Speaker Bowers did not see, much less read, the vast majority of those messages, including the form email sent by Mrs. Thomas,” said the spokesman, Andrew Wilder.

 
 

Bolick is married to Clint Bolick, an associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, who worked with Clarence Thomas early in his career and has said he considers the justice a mentor.

Shawnna Bolick wrote back to Ginni Thomas on Nov. 10, 2020, “I hope you and Clarence are doing great!” She gave Thomas guidance on how to submit complaints about any of her experiences with voter fraud in Arizona.

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