Cory Booker Says SCOTUS Needs to “Use This Thomas Affair” to Change Its Ethics Rules

“Clearly” Justice Thomas “should have recused himself” from election cases.

The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Reactions to a series of text messages from GOP activist and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas to former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows about overturning the 2020 election are still pouring from both sides of the aisle. Today, Sen. Cory Booker (D.-N.J.) weighed in and called for a change to the highest court’s ethics rules.

Appearing on Meet the Press Sunday Booker said that he has had “a lot of frustrations” with the US Supreme Court as a whole because “they haven’t taken measures to police themselves.” 

“They need to use this Thomas affair as an opportunity to change their ethics rules,” Booker said. 

To recap the reasons for the scrutiny on Ginni Thomas, I’ll refer to my colleague Noah Kim’s story about how she had repeatedly urged Trump’s top aide to overturn the election by any means necessary. This in itself would not be a problem, except for the fact that as a Supreme Court justice, her husband ruled on cases directly related to that effort.

Here are some sample texts that Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was sending to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows in the aftermath of the 2020 election:

  • On November 5, 2020, she cited a Sandy Hook-denying right-wing commentator and referenced QAnon conspiracy theories that Donald Trump had watermarked ballots to track voter fraud: “Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states.” 
  • That same day, she quoted language circulating on pro-Trump sites: “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.” She added: “I hope this is true.” 
  • On November 10, 2020, she wrote: “Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!…You are the leader, with him, who is standing for America’s constitutional governance at the precipice. The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History.”

Allow me to state the obvious: This is fucking insane. And not just Fox News insane, but 8Chan-invoking, conspiracy theory-mongering, InfoWars-repeating, QAnon-spouting bonkers. 

Since The Washington Post and CBS News reported on the messages, many lawmakers have called for Thomas to recuse himself from upcoming cases around the Jan. 6 insurrection and any possible election cases should Trump run again. But high-ranking Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy have come out in defense of Thomas. Florida Sen. Rick Scott is the latest Republican to say that “Clarence Thomas, in my opinion, will always do the right thing.” Still, Scott told “Fox News Sunday” that he would support legislation to change the Supreme Court’s code of ethics to align with the ethics federal judges are asked to follow. 

Beyond an overhaul of the Supreme Court ethics guidelines, Booker also called for “a thorough investigation to better understand exactly what has happened.”

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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