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Dems demand Supreme Court’s Clarence Thomas recuse himself from key 2020 election, Capitol riot cases

Justice Clarence Thomas to swear in Judge Amy Coney Barrett as the 115th justice to the Supreme Court.
Jonathan Newton | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Two dozen Democratic lawmakers demanded that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “promptly recuse himself” from future cases related to pro-Trump efforts to challenge the 2020 election results, including those tied to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

In a letter dated Monday, 24 Democrats in the House and Senate asked the senior justice to “immediately issue a written explanation for his failure to recuse himself” from such cases.

They also pushed Chief Justice John Roberts to create a “binding Code of Conduct” for the high court that would require all justices to “issue written recusal decisions.”

Those requests came after news outlets revealed late 2020 and early 2021 texts that showed Thomas’ wife, Virginia Thomas, urged then-President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, to try to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. Virginia Thomas’ involvement in the push to overturn Biden’s victory has raised questions about whether her husband can rule impartially if the Supreme Court hears cases related to the effort.

A cache of 29 text messages shows a frantic, conspiracy-laden dialogue between Thomas, a conservative activist who goes by Ginni, and the top White House aide after Biden beat Trump.

After news outlets projected that Biden won the election, Thomas on Nov. 10 reportedly wrote Meadows: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

On Nov. 19, Thomas reportedly texted Meadows that she believed pro-Trump attorney Sidney Powell “and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud.”

“Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down,” she wrote.

Monday’s letter, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, linked those “alarming” reports with “the urgent need for significant ethics reform at the Supreme Court.”

“These revelations — combined with prior reporting about Ms. Thomas’s efforts to nullify the results of the 2020 election — raise serious questions about Justice Thomas’s participation in cases before the Supreme Court involving the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection,” the letter said.

Despite his wife’s actions, “Justice Thomas has neither disclosed the extent of his knowledge about Ms. Thomas’s activities nor recused himself from multiple Court cases involving the 2020 election and the attempted insurrection that followed,” the letter said.

They noted that Thomas was the only one of the nine high-court justices who would have granted Trump’s request to block the transfer of key White House records to the House select committee probing the Jan. 6 riot.

Those presidential records, which were ultimately handed over to the committee, “could very well contain communications between Ms. Thomas and top White House officials given what we now know,” the letter said.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the Democrats’ letter.

Twenty-one of the Democrats who signed the letter sit on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told NBC News on Monday that Thomas should recuse himself from any cases related to the Jan. 6 riot.

In their letter, the Democratic lawmakers wrote: “As Congress considers its response to these latest revelations involving Justice Thomas’s potential violations of ethics laws, the Supreme Court has the responsibility and the power to act now.”

The Democrats also asked Roberts to commit by the end of April to “creating a binding Code of Conduct for the Supreme Court.” They noted that it is “the only court in the country not currently subject to a judicial code of ethics.”

The rules should include “enforceable provisions to ensure that the Justices comply with this Code,” and “a requirement that all Justices issue written recusal decisions,” the Democrats wrote.

“Chief Justice Roberts has often spoken about the importance of the Supreme Court’s ‘credibility and legitimacy as an institution.’ That trust, already at all-time lows with the American public, must be earned,” their letter said.

Thomas, 73, is the most senior member of the Supreme Court. The texts between his wife and Meadows were revealed just days after the justice was hospitalized with an infection. Thomas was discharged Friday, a week after he was admitted for “flulike symptoms,” according to the court.

Thomas did not participate in oral arguments before the court last week. He joined oral arguments remotely on Monday and Tuesday.

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