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Text messages reveal Ginni Thomas urged Mark Meadows to overturning election results

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has a long track record when it comes to her conservative activism. But that activism took a dramatic turn in the weeks following former President Donald Trump's re-election loss. That is when Thomas was in touch with Trump's top aide. And she actively pursued efforts to overturn the 2020 election. NPR congressional reporter Claudia Grisales has been reporting on this. Hey there.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So what more do we know about Ginni Thomas' role here?

GRISALES: Thomas was in touch with Mark Meadows - this was Trump's then-chief of staff - pushing this effort to overturn the election with a joint Washington Post-CBS News report revealing there were 29 text messages in all. And that's raising questions about Ginni Thomas' links to January 6, though we should note she has only said she attended an earlier rally that day. But this is part of a long and controversial history for Thomas that spans decades.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GINNI THOMAS: Hi. I'm Ginni Thomas. A lot of people know me because of my husband, who's on the Supreme Court. But the truth is I'm my mother's daughter. My mother was a Reagan delegate in 1968 to Miami, and I caught the bug when I was a teenager.

GRISALES: Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the daughter of the heartland, an Omaha, Neb., native, was then known as Virginia Lamp. She attended university and studied law at Creighton University in her hometown. At one point in her life, she aspired to become a member of Congress and made it her mission to lift conservatism in a new way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

G THOMAS: But what I really love are the people outside of this Beltway of Washington and the people who see we can have a strong America again.

GRISALES: That's Thomas in an endorsement video for Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz during his 2016 run for president. It was one of many times Ginni Thomas was making her mark on the public stage as part of her conservative activism that, over the years, increasingly went to the controversial. In the weeks following the November 2020 election, Thomas sent then-Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows dozens of text messages pushing false claims and conspiracy theories and urging him and others to fight President Biden's win.

ROBERT COSTA: It's extraordinary. This is a pipeline between the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, the judicial branch and the chief of staff at the White House.

GRISALES: That's Robert Costa, CBS News correspondent who was one of the reporters who broke the story, talking to NPR. Ginni Thomas also pushed controversial figures to the forefront, such as attorney Sidney Powell, who pushed misinformation efforts related to Trump's loss.

STEVEN VLADECK: On the one hand, there's Ginni Thomas, the political activist who has, you know, certainly what I would describe as extreme views but views that, of course, she has a constitutional right to have.

GRISALES: That's University of Texas law professor Steven Vladeck, who says the latest controversy still highlights an issue for the court to police itself when it comes to ethical concerns. Ginni Thomas married her husband in the 1980s, when he was chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The two were active in similar circles, and soon after, he was nominated to the Supreme Court. In the past, Ginni Thomas has made her link to her husband known, interviewing him once for the Daily Caller News Foundation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

G THOMAS: Clarence Thomas.

CLARENCE THOMAS: Yeah.

G THOMAS: You're the best man walking the face of the Earth. It's an honor to interview you for my leader series. Thanks for agreeing to do this. Happy 2018.

THOMAS: Oh, I'm really stressed out about this interview.

GRISALES: She also did not shy away from jumping into her husband's nomination process in the 1990s. Ginni Thomas reached out to lawyer Anita Hill to demand an apology after Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. It was part of a long line of public moments for Ginni Thomas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

G THOMAS: I think it's an American thing. I think people are rebelling, and there's a big tidal wave coming.

GRISALES: That's her in a 2010 ABC interview as she became an emerging leader in the Tea Party movement. Fast-forward to more recently. Ginni Thomas is now facing questions over her ties to the January 6 attack that followed Trump's loss. This year Justice Thomas was the lone dissenter in a case before the Supreme Court allowed the House Select Committee investigating the siege to access Trump White House records. Ginni Thomas' text messages to Mark Meadows may have been among them, and Professor Vladeck says that's an issue for the court.

VLADECK: There really aren't sufficient number of ethical rules that apply to the Supreme Court, and there's no enforcement mechanism for those rules that do.

GRISALES: This leaves Congress yet again debating whether it needs to step in and force the Supreme Court to follow the same ethical rules lower courts do. Claudia Grisales, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.