US House Democrats press Justice Thomas to recuse from Trump cases

By Susan Heavey and Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – House Democrats are calling on Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from the U.S. Supreme Court’s handling of Donald Trump’s bid for immunity in the federal case accusing the former Republican president of seeking to overturn his 2020 election loss.

In a Dec. 15 letter to the justice, the group of Democrats cited involvement by Thomas’ wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, in alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the top court’s recent ethics code of conduct.

“We strongly implore you to exercise your discretion and recuse yourself from this and any other decisions in the case of United States v. Trump,” Representative Hank Johnson, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee’s court subcommittee, and seven other Democrats wrote.

Representatives for Thomas did not respond to a request for comment on the letter, first reported by the Washington Post on Monday.

The case, one of four criminal cases facing Trump as he again seeks the White House, is appealing a federal judge’s ruling this month rejecting Trump’s bid to dismiss the case based on an argument that he could not be prosecuted for official actions he took as president.

Federal prosecutors, in an unusual move aimed at thwarting Trump’s efforts to stall the trial until after the November election, have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to bypass the appeals court and immediately rule on the immunity claim.

Ginni Thomas was questioned by the House panel investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential contest and the Jan. 6, 2021 attack by Trump’s supporters on the U.S. Capitol, but faces no charges. Her lawyer has previously said she had no role in the attack.

Ginni Thomas, who is active in conservative political circles, attended a rally Trump held shortly before thousands of his supporters stormed the Capitol in an attempt to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.

The Washington Post previously reported on emails she sent to Trump lawyer John Eastman as well as text messages she sent to Trump’s then White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

The ethics code states that “a Justice should disqualify himself or herself in a proceeding in which the Justice’s impartiality might reasonably be questioned,” including instances in which a justice knows their spouse has “an interest that could be substantially affected” by the decision or could be a material witness, the Democratic lawmakers wrote.

In October, Thomas recused himself from the court’s decision not to hear a case related to the Jan. 6 attack involving Eastman.

The court formalized its code in November after a string of revelations detailing undisclosed luxury trips and hobnobbing with wealthy benefactors by some of the top justices, including Thomas. A U.S. Senate panel is also investigating the court’s ethics.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung and Susan Heavey; Editing by Bill Berkrot)