Did Trump's Lawyers Get Clarence Thomas Caught Up?

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas joins other members of the Supreme Court as they pose for a new group portrait, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas joins other members of the Supreme Court as they pose for a new group portrait, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

A trove of emails between Donald Trump’s campaign lawyers shows that while his wife was actively coordinating with the White House to keep Trump in power after his 2020 election loss, the Trump campaign believed Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was the key to keeping Trump in power.

Politico first obtained and wrote about the emails, in which attorney Kenneth Chesebro and John Eastman debated legal strategies to keep the lame-duck in power. The emails are critical for their timing: they show that in the period after the November 2020 election but before the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Trump’s top legal advisers believed Thomas would be a reliable ally. That coincided with the time period in which transcripts of text messages showed Thomas’s wife, conservative activist Ginny Thomas, coordinating with former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on efforts to overturn the elections results.

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Ginny Thomas has repeatedly denied that her husband was aware of her activities but that hasn’t stopped critics from insisting that Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from any cases involving Trump and the 2020 election. Several such cases have already come before the Court: Thomas was the lone vote against certain White House records being turned over to the House committee investigating the insurrection. Last month, he temporarily halted a subpoena compelling Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to testify before a grand jury in Georgia hearing evidence in an investigation of Trump’s actions in the election; the full court yesterday ended Graham’s challenge to that subpoena.

The Georgia case could give the most powerful ammunition to those who still want Justice Thomas sidelined on Trump-related matters. The emails between Trump’s attorneys show them specifically targeting the election’s results in that state.

From Politico:

“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”

“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.

Justice Thomas is a Georgia native and he is responsible for making temporary rulings on cases that appear on the Court’s emergency docket in the southeastern region of the country. The investigation into Trump’s possible wrongdoing is ongoing in Fulton County, Georgia, and multiple Trump allies have sought intervention from the courts to avoid appearing before a grand jury.

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