It’s also worth recalling the putative rationale for those dozens of people trying to block Trump’s ouster from the White House: a complex and often downright delusional set of claims about election theft. To be fair, some of those Republicans in Congress probably didn’t believe those claims; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) appeared to be operating more out of opportunism than misinformation. While Trump surrounded himself with people outside of government who seemed to believe in the most far-flung nonsense, it’s not even clear to what extent he himself thought some of those theories were viable, though he nonetheless treated them as useful to his political survival and publicly married them.
That’s what makes the text messages unearthed by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and Robert Costa of CBS News so significant. In the weeks following the 2020 election, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows exchanged more than two dozen messages with a prominent conservative activist, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, focused on encouraging Trump and Meadows to keep fighting for power, sometimes describing the situation in quasi-religious terms.
“You guys lay down, evil is moving fast under you all,” a message to Meadows read. “Lots of escalating threats against ACB and others.”
The “ACB” is Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court justice who had been confirmed by the Senate less than a month prior. The author of the post was presumably aware of the threats Barrett faced, thanks to her husband: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Of all the messages Ginni Thomas has sent to Meadows, this one stands out as a reminder to us – if not to Meadows, who needed no reminder – of the extent to which in the upper echelon of American power the push to steal the presidency has grown, not to mention the illusions that have fueled that push.
Ginni Thomas has been far-right longtime activist. Long before Trump survived helpless frustration at his indifference to expected standards, the Thomases had weathered these turbulent waters. Even when Ginni Thomas on January 6, 2021 congratulated protesters on Facebook who attended Trump’s rally near the White House that morning, he was considered a Yes of course situation more than anything.
When we later learned that Thomas herself attended that gathering, the math didn’t change much. One of the things America has learned about itself in recent years is that slowly removing the bandages really does reduce the sting.
But Thomas’s messages to Meadows are important for reasons that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The most important question is that of justice Consciousness of Thomas. It would be hard to imagine that he and she did not discuss the election following it; this comment about the threat against Barrett reminds us that Ginni Thomas had access to information about the court that many would not.
In January of this year, Justice Thomas was the only dissenting vote in the Supreme Court ruling forcing disclosure of Trump’s White House records to the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He did not express his opposition, but the possibility that these recordings could have included some communications involving his wife — which we can assume, but not know, he was aware of — raise questions about whether he should have been part of the decision in the first place.
Same as Trump effort to overturn the vote and secure a second term was in progress, Justice Thomas was seen as a sympathetic figure on the pitch. John Eastman, one of the lawyers who convinced Trump that Vice President Mike Pence could simply throw out electoral votes – potentially leading to a Supreme Court ruling on the election – spoke to Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, within days prior to January 6. Jacob described one such conversation in a statement to the committee.
“I said, ‘If this case came to the Supreme Court, we would lose 9-0, wouldn’t we, if we took your position and made it happen? And it started at 7 a.m. against 2 a.m. And I said, ‘Who are the two?’ And he said, “Well, I think maybe Clarence Thomas.” ”
Judge Thomas’ background as a jurist would certainly lead one to believe that he would favor a claim for broad executive power that would retain a Republican president. In other words, it does not indicate that Eastman was offering this view because he had unusual insight into the judge’s views. In fact, according to Jacob’s deposition, he and Eastman later agreed that they assumed Thomas would reject the scheme. But it’s a reminder of where this thing has infiltrated — spilling out of the Oval Office, covering much of the Republican caucuses on Capitol Hill, and reaching at least the steps of the Supreme Court.
Again, it’s not just the What but the Why. There are multiple layers of arguments for allowing Trump to stay in office, including procedural (some legal votes may have been cast under laws or systems that the courts have been skeptical of), dishonesty (anecdotal claims about evidence of rampant fraud that never materialized) and the deranged (foreign governments using satellites to steal votes).
What Ginni Thomas, wife of a Supreme Court justice, raised to the White House chief of staff was closer to this third category than the first two.
For example, she raised a theory that some ballots were intentionally made traceable to catch those who were going to commit fraud. It was a popular theory among QAnon adherents, part of the central thesis of this conspiracy theory that Trump was deploying various unseen tactics to root out the nefarious wrongdoings of a cabal of leftist criminals.
“Watermarked ballots in over 12 states were part of a massive Trump and military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states,” she wrote to Meadows.
The reference “white hat” comes from the world of hacking where those who seek to find vulnerabilities to fix them (white hats) confront those who want to find vulnerabilities to exploit (black hats). There was no sting operation, of course, since there was no endemic fraud and, therefore, there was no point in developing some secret, unexplained mechanism to uncover this behviour.
This isn’t just a random example, mind you. This is telling: Thomas not only presents the idea that this sting is happening, which it isn’t – and which, you know, Trump would probably be aware of if he was part of the plan? — but also seems to suggest that there is a raison for that to happen. That there was a frantic effort to commit a fraud she hoped would be uncovered. She seemed to buy in central dishonesty as well as in its marginal manifestations.
Thomas also sent Meadows a riff she may have pulled from a fringe website, alleging that the “Biden crime family” and others involved in a scheme to steal the election were “in the process of stealing the election.” be arrested and detained for electoral fraud now and in the coming days, and will be living in barges off GITMO” – the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba – “to face military tribunals for sedition”.
Again, if that happened, it looks like Meadows would know. But even beyond that, it’s a bizarre assertion to share in any uncritical context.
A central effort by Thomas, however, was to amplify the claims of Sidney Powell, an attorney whose claims about the election eventually became so patently ridiculous that even Trump’s legal team was forced to distance themselves. from her. But Thomas ate it, even wondering why the White House kicked Powell off the team after Fox News’ Tucker Carlson publicly exposed Powell as having no proof of the fraud she allegedly committed.
It’s not fair Thomas says these things, and it’s not Meadows saying these things (although Meadows, at least, played with the things Thomas was offering). But it’s hard to think of another voice credibly addressed by key elements of American power making equally outlandish claims.
At one point, Ginni Thomas warned of the consequences if Trump and Meadows were to “give in to the elites.” Meadows replied, “I don’t know what you mean by giving in to the elites,” by which he presumably meant that he was unsure how the White House might give in to its position.
But he also might have been confused by Thomas’s distinction between the White House and the spouse of a Supreme Court justice identifying another group as “elites.” They were the elites! And they were centering a discussion about the theft of the presidency on a series of bizarre allegations about voter fraud.
The fringe was intertwined with American power in ways we are still discovering.