- McConnell rejected calls for Clarence Thomas to recuse himself from January 6-related SCOTUS cases.
- “This performative outrage is not in earnest,” the GOP leader said. “This is a political hit.”
- Several Democratic lawmakers in recent days have called for Thomas to resign from the court.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday decried criticism of Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, dismissing Democratic-led calls for the jurist to resign or recuse himself from January 6-related cases as an “inappropriate pressure campaign.”
The Kentucky Republican — who voted to confirm Thomas to Supreme Court in 1991 and played a leading role in installing three conservative jurists to the court during former President Donald Trump’s tenure — rejected the concerns as a “coordinated effort to nullify” the justice’s presence on the court.
“The left’s quest to delegitimize the Supreme Court found its latest outlet,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “Washington Democrats are now trying to bully this exemplary judge of 30-plus years out of entire legal subjects, or off the Court entirely.”
Last Thursday, The Washington Post and CBS News reported on 29 text messages exchanged between former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Thomas’ wife, longtime conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, in which Ginni urged Meadows to pursue efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The texts are in the possession of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot, and the panel is expected to request an interview with Ginni, CNN reported on Monday.
Since the news broke, more than two dozen Democratic lawmakers have demanded that Thomas recuse himself from cases concerning the January 6 insurrection, raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest. Prominent legal ethics experts have also expressed concerns that Ginni Thomas’ political activities present a conflict of interest for her husband.
Democrats have particularly scrutinized Thomas’ decision not to recuse himself from a Supreme Court order handed down two months ago, in which the Court rejected Trump’s bid to withhold White House from the January 6 committee as part of its probe. Thomas was the sole dissenter. Thomas did not provide any reasoning for his decision, which is standard for such emergency motions that reach the high court. In addition to pushing for his recusal from future January 6-related cases, Democrats have urged Thomas to provide a written explanation for his dissent.
Democrats have also renewed calls for legislation that would establish an ethics code for Supreme Court justices. Under current law, justices decide when to recuse themselves from cases.
Some progressive lawmakers — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — have called for Thomas to resign or face impeachment, which McConnell broadly dismissed on Wednesday.
“Far-left House members are talking about dusting off their party’s impeachment addiction for a third year,” he said. “Make no mistake. This performative outrage is not in earnest. This is a political hit, part of liberals’ yearslong quest to delegitimize the Court.”
Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday tweeted a scathing indictment of Thomas, stating that his refusal to “recuse himself from matters involving his wife” required an investigation.
McConnell argued that Democrats have for years sought to “bully” conservative justices “based on spurious accusations about fake ethical problems or partiality.” He called on Thomas to “ignore” the most recent criticism.
“This new inappropriate pressure campaign is just a continuation of this well-worn pattern,” he said. “It has no basis in Justice Thomas’s decades of impeccable service on the bench. The Justice and the entire Court should feel free to ignore it.”
McConnell also criticized Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York for his 2020 comments in which the lawmaker said that Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh would “pay the price” if they tried to curtail abortion rights.
“In 2020, the Democratic Leader himself stood on the steps of the Supreme Court and threatened multiple sitting justices by name if they didn’t reach the policy outcome that liberals wanted,” he said.