Justice Thomas' bias on Trump destroys Supreme Court integrity. He must recuse

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas sits during a group photo of the Justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on April 23, 2021. (Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images/TNS)

Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginni Thomas, has made clear her belief that the November 2020 election was stolen.

She attended Donald Trump’s Stop the Steal rally on Jan. 6, 2021, but claims she left before Trump spoke to the crowd and directed his supporters toward the Capitol. The premise behind the rally was clear: to assert that Joe Biden was not elected fairly and that Trump was the rightful winner. Such assertions have been debunked repeatedly in state election audits, and close to 60 court decisions have gone against Trump’s challenges.

Ginni Thomas, however, made clear she did not respect those court decisions and attended a rally whose sole purpose was to keep Trump in power. She insists she had no role in the insurrection and that her political views don’t influence her husband. Given her ongoing public activity on Trump’s behalf and her husband’s demonstrated bias favoring Trump, it’s time for Justice Thomas to formally recuse himself from all future cases involving Trump and the insurrection. His hospitalization for flu-like symptoms on Sunday, while important, do not eliminate the conflict-of-interest issues at he heart of his wife’s political activism.

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No one can force a sitting justice to recuse, but many do it anyway — specifically because they do not want to create a public perception that personal bias sways their judgment on the bench. Justice Thomas and his wife have every right to support Trump and call for his return to the Oval Office. But since the high court is actively involved in deciding Trump’s political future (if not his criminality), Justice Thomas can only damage the court’s reputation by being present.

In an interview with the conservative Washington Beacon, Ginni Thomas acknowledged her presence at the Jan. 6 rally. “I was disappointed and frustrated that there was violence that happened following a peaceful gathering of Trump supporters on the Ellipse,” she stated. Yes, a peaceful gathering of Trump supporters carrying bear spray, clubs, zip ties, a gallows and military armor who were there to declare that since their candidate lost, America’s election system is corrupt.

It’s highly doubtful the Thomases don’t discuss their daily experiences around the dinner table. What’s certain is that, in January, the Supreme Court ruled on whether Congress had the right to subpoena White House records concerning the 2020 election certification and the insurrection that disrupted it. Trump asked the court to rule against Congress. Eight justices ruled against Trump. The sole vote in his favor: Clarence Thomas.

Chief Justice John Roberts once openly chided Trump when the president asserted that the American federal judicial system was biased, depending on the political affiliation of the judge hearing a case. That’s not the case, Roberts said, insisting that the judiciary is jealously independent, and an “independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”

Thomas and his wife are working overtime to undermine that independence. In the process, they are destroying the court’s credibility. Which is why Justice Thomas must recuse.