When Julius Caesar learned that Publius Clodius—a rakish ladies’ man who held great affection for Caesar’s wife, Pompeia—snuck into Caesar’s house and allegedly canoodled with his wife, Caesar divorced Pompeia. According to the historian Suetonius, when asked about his decision, Caesar answered “My wife should be as much free from suspicion of a crime as she is from a crime itself.”
I wonder if Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is aware of the meaning of that story.
After hearing the news that Thomas’s wife had traded dozens of text messages with Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows urging him to find a way to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, I was angered and outraged: angered that the spouse of a high-profile member of the third branch of government would demonstrate such a flagrant lack of ethical judgment; and outraged to learn that in place of an ethical code of conduct, Supreme Court Justices rely solely on an honor system.
The honor system may not be very honorable in this case.
“Stephen Gillers, a law professor at N.Y.U. and a prominent judicial ethicist, described the revelations as ‘a game-changer,’” New Yorker magazine writes. . . . ‘Ginni has now crossed a line.’ . . . Gillers concluded, ‘Clarence Thomas cannot sit on any matter involving the election, the invasion of the Capitol, or the work of the January 6 Committee.’”
However, Thomas’s messages did not just show support for Trump but a disturbing belief in false conspiracy theories. Here are just three of the texts investigated by PolitiFact:
What Thomas wrote:
“Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.”
Thomas sent Meadows a link to a YouTube video on Nov. 5, 2020, called, “TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN.” The video is no longer on YouTube.
What Thomas wrote:
“Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc.) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition.”
Thomas’s claim that public figures in politics, government, tech, and the media were being rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo Bay for military tribunals “is the essence of QAnon,” Mike Rothschild author of a book about QAnon, said. Vice reported that Thomas’ text “directly quoted a passage floating around on QAnon message boards.”
What Thomas wrote:
“The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”
This is false; there was no “heist.”
A scheme to steal the election for Biden would have required election workers in thousands of cities and counties to coordinate a massive fraud, risking felony charges and prison time. By the date of Thomas’ text, Nov. 10, 2020, judges in multiple states had rejected lawsuits filed on Trump’s behalf that challenged vote-counting procedures, Politifact determined.
The Thomas matter is reminiscent of the controversial text message exchange between Peter Strozk and Lisa Page, two FBI agents who were part of a team investigating the Trump/Russia connection during Trump’s presidential campaign. This was the key exchange between the two agents:
“[Trump’s] not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” Page texted Strzok.
“No. No, he won’t. We’ll stop it,” Strzok responded.
Republicans pounced on the messages that appeared to imply that Strzok and perhaps the FBI, were contemplating a plan to sabotage Trump’s campaign.
After leaving the House committee room where Struzk testified, Arizona Republican Andy Biggs was asked for a reaction.
“Mad and angry,” Biggs said.
While Democrats were outraged by Thomas’s messages and called for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from any case that comes before the court regarding the January 6 matter, as usual, Republican outrage demonstrated a 180-degree split.
“‘He’s a jurist who has a lot of integrity,’ Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Sunday on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’ ‘He’s going to make that decision and he has the right to do it.’ Over on Fox News, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) argued, ‘I’ve watched Clarence Thomas for years and I’ve always seen him do the right thing.’”
Ginni Thomas certainly has a right to free speech, but another Supreme Court Justice from the past offers an ethical message that Justice Thomas might revisit:
“There is a big difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do,” Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said.
The Court, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Thomas have yet to issue a statement.