Jonathan Turley: Absolutely no grounds for impeaching Clarence Thomas

By Art Moore

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swears in Sonny Perdue as the 31st secretary of agriculture April 25, 2017, at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Preston Keres, Wikimedia Commons)
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swears in Sonny Perdue as the 31st secretary of agriculture April 25, 2017, at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Preston Keres, Wikimedia Commons)

The calls by some Democratic leaders to impeach Associate Justice Clarence Thomas because of his wife’s conservative activism and texts are completely unfounded, contends George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.

“In reality, the calls for his impeachment are entirely disconnected from any constitutional or logical foundation,” he wrote on his website. “Rather, the Thomas controversy shows how the impeachment mantra has become a raging impeachment addiction.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., on Friday joined calls by her progressive allies for Thomas to resign or be impeached in response to a Washington Post story by Bob Woodward and Robert Acosta titled “Virginia Thomas urged White House chief to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 election, texts show.” MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan and former Sen. Barbara Boxer were among others calling for impeachment.

Ginni Thomas speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
(Gage Skidmore)

The Post story – focusing on 29 texts between Ginni Thomas and Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows leaked from the House Select Committee probing Jan. 6 – followed a New Yorker report in February contending the political activism of Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, poses a conflict of interest.

Turley pointed out that Ginni Thomas, a well-known Republican activist and Trump supporter, simply was urging Meadows “to pursue legal and legislative challenges to what she viewed as a stolen election.”

“She was not alone,” Turley argued. “Millions of Republicans believed that the election was rigged and many still do.”

Turley further pointed out there is “no evidence that Ginni Thomas ever encouraged violence or was even present at the Capitol during the riot.”

The professor then address the specific arguments for impeachment.

Critics claim Justice Thomas violated the Judicial Code of Ethics because he voted in January on a challenge to the Jan. 6 commission obtaining White House messages and emails. Thomas was the lone dissenting vote.

However, the Supreme Court has determined that the rules of the Judicial Code of Ethics are largely discretionary for members of the high court, and Congress has not mandated compliance.

In any case, Turley argued, it’s unclear that there was any violation, as there was “nothing in these messages that put Ginni Thomas in legal peril.”

“She was not only engaging in political advocacy but stating the same position that she has largely maintained in public,” Turley wrote.

Finally, he said, the Supreme Court ruling in January was immaterial to the release of the Thomas messages.

The New Yorker acknowledged that Meadows already had turned over to the congressional committee some 2,300 texts, which included the exchange with Ginni Thomas, by the time Clarence Thomas voted.

“Indeed, Congress could have subpoenaed those messages directly from Ginni Thomas without facing executive privilege barriers,” Turley explained. “Even if recusal in January would have avoided an ‘appearance’ of a conflict, the failure to take such a discretionary act to avoid an appearance of a conflict hardly suggests an impeachable offense.”

In spite of all this, the law professor wrote, “media and legal experts are clamoring for impeachment.”

‘Democracy at work’
Turley pointed out the irony that former Sen. Boxer is calling Ginni Thomas a “colluder” because she favored a challenged to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election through the constitutional process.

It was Boxer who led a challenge in January 2005 to George W. Bush’s victory over Democratic candidate John Kerry in Ohio, charging Republicans stole the election.

But Boxer received only praise from her Democratic colleagues, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who gushed that the world was “witnessing Democracy at work.”

“This isn’t as some of our Republican colleagues have referred to it, sadly, as frivolous,” Pelosi said. “This debate is fundamental to our democracy.”

Turley concluded that the “calls for the impeachment of Justice Thomas are ludicrous, but there is nothing laughable about the impeachment addiction fueling this frenzy.”

“People of good faith can disagree on the need of Thomas to recuse himself from certain Commission-related cases. However, impeaching Thomas based on these grounds would expose all justices to the threat of politically motivated impeachments as majorities shift in Congress,” he warned.

“That is precisely what the Framers sought to avoid under our Constitution.”

Roe v. Wade
The call for Thomas to resign comes as the Supreme Court deliberates over an abortion case that could overturn Roe v. Wade.

WND reported in February on the lengthy exposé in The New Yorker titled “Is Ginni Thomas a Threat to the Supreme Court?”. The author, Jane Mayer, doesn’t hide her disdain for Ginni Thomas’s conservative political views, labeling them “far-right.” She sets out to argue that Clarence Thomas is violating fundamental rules of judicial ethics, while acknowledging that Supreme Court justices are not bound by the rules regarding conflicts of interest to which lower-court federal judges must adhere.

In its story Thursday, the Post doesn’t present any evidence that Ginni Thomas’ activism had anything to do with the no vote of Clarence Thomas, an “originalist” justice who has been ranked by various metrics as the “most conservative” member of the court.

Earlier this month, Thomas responded to the New Yorker’s accusations in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon, explaining she did not help organize the White House rally that preceded the Capitol riot. She said she attended the rally, but got cold and left early. Moreover, she maintained, her involvement with the event has no bearing on the work of her husband.

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