By Emma Brown
Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona lawmakers after the 2020 election to set aside Joe Biden’s popular-vote victory and choose “a clean slate of Electors,” according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.
The emails, sent by Ginni Thomas to a pair of lawmakers on Nov. 9, 2020, argued that legislators needed to intervene because the vote had been marred by fraud. Though she did not mention either candidate by name, the context was clear.
Just days after media organizations called the race for Biden in Arizona and nationwide, Thomas urged the lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure.” She told the lawmakers that the responsibility to choose electors was “yours and yours alone” and said they had “power to fight back against fraud.”
Thomas sent the messages via an online platform designed to make it easy to send prewritten form emails to multiple elected officials, according to a review of the emails, obtained under the state’s public-records law.
The messages show that Thomas, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, was more deeply involved in the effort to overturn Biden’s win than has been previously reported. In sending the emails, Thomas played a role in the extraordinary scheme to keep Trump in office by substituting the will of legislatures for the will of voters.
Thomas’s actions also underline concerns about potential conflicts of interest that her husband has already faced — and may face in the future — in deciding cases related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election. Those questions intensified in March, when The Post and CBS News obtained text messages that Thomas sent in late 2020 to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, pressing him to help reverse the election.
The emails were sent to Russell “Rusty” Bowers, a veteran legislatorand speaker of the Arizona House, and Shawnna Bolick, who was first elected to the chamber in 2018 and served on the House Elections Committee during the 2020 session.
“Article II of the United States Constitution gives you an awesome responsibility: to choose our state’s Electors,” read the Nov. 9email. “… [P]lease take action to ensure that a clean slate of Electors is chosen.”
Thomas’sname also appears on an email to the two representatives on Dec. 13, the day before members of the electoral college met to cast their votes and seal Biden’s victory. “Before you choose your state’s Electors …consider what will happen to the nation we all love if you don’t stand up and lead,” the email said.
It included a link to a video of a man delivering a message meant for swing-state lawmakers, urging themto “put things right” and “not give in to cowardice.”
“You have only hours to act,” said the speaker, who is not identified in the video.
By December, the claim that legislators should override the popular vote in key states and appoint Trump’s electors was also being pushed publicly by John C. Eastman, a former law clerk to Clarence Thomas, and Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.
Trump allies argued that pandemic-era changes in election administration and supposedly widespread fraud meant that elections had not been conducted in accordance with state legislatures’ directions and that, under the U.S. Constitution, the results therefore could be cast aside. Many legal experts have called those arguments unpersuasive and anti-democratic, and no state legislature complied. Efforts to persuade state lawmakers to name new electors are among the issues under examination by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
Courts turned back dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies in an attempt to challenge the 2020 election outcome, and there is no evidence of voting machine manipulation or other widespread fraud.
Ginni Thomas did not respond to requests for comment.
A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not respond to messages seeking comment from Clarence Thomas.
Ginni Thomas has insisted that she and her husband have kept their work separate, but her political activism has set her apart from other Supreme Court spouses. About a decade ago, she and Stephen K. Bannon — who later became chief strategist in the Trump White House— were among the organizers of Groundswell, a group formed to battle liberals and establishment Republicans. Groundswell dedicateditself to “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation,” according to emails uncovered by Mother Jones at the time. “Election integrity” was among the topics discussed in the group’s first months, the emails show.
Thomas’s influence in Washington grew during the Trump presidency as her viewsmoved into the GOP mainstream. Clarence and Ginni Thomas had lunch with Trump at the White House in 2018, then attended a state dinner the following year. Also in 2019, she and fellow right-wing activists attended a White House luncheon, where the New York Times reported that they told Trump his aides were blocking their preferred candidates for administration appointments.
Over those same years, at annual luncheons, Thomas handed out “Impact Awards” to right-wing figures. Recipients have includedMeadows, then a congressman chairing the hard-right Freedom Caucus; Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe; and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Thomas is a member of the Council for National Policy, a network of prominent conservative activists, someof whom helped press claims of election fraud. She recently said she attended the pro-Trump rally at the Ellipse in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
Thomas sent the emails via freeroots.com, a website meant to give political organizers an efficient means of conductingemail campaigns. The email address of the sender in Thomas’s emails is displayed as “Ginni Thomas<email@example.com>.”
A representative of FreeRoots did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The Nov. 9 email carried the subject line, “Please do your Constitutional duty!” In addition to pushing the lawmakers to appoint electors, the email asked for a meeting to discuss pursuing an “audit” of the vote.
The records obtained by The Post do not show any response from Bowers, whose refusal to help overturn Biden’s victory in Arizona made him the target of a recall campaign. When Trump’s legal team pressed to replace Biden electors with Trump electors, Bowers released a public statement explaining that they were asking legislators to do something forbidden by state law.
“As a conservative Republican, I don’t like the results of the presidential election. I voted for President Trump and worked hard to reelect him,” it said. “But I cannot and will not entertain a suggestion that we violate current law to change the outcome of a certified election.”
A spokesman for Bowers told The Post that hundreds of thousands of messages were sent to the speaker’s office in the post-election period. “Speaker Bowers did not see, much less read, the vast majority of those messages, including the form email sent by Mrs. Thomas,” said the spokesman, Andrew Wilder.
Under the U.S. Constitution, states appoint presidential electors “in such manner” as the legislatures direct. Historically, some state legislatures appointed electors directly, but in the modern era states have delegated that responsibility to voters. In urging Arizona lawmakers to “choose” electors after Biden had already prevailed, Thomas’s messages claimed lawmakers could intervene in that process.
Bolick is married to Clint Bolick, an associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, who worked with Clarence Thomas early in his career and has said he considers the justice a mentor.
Shawnna Bolick wrote back to GinniThomas on Nov. 10, 2020, “I hope you and Clarence are doing great!” She gave Thomas guidance on how to submit complaints about any of her experiences with voter fraud in Arizona.
Bolick, who is now seeking the Republican nomination to be Arizona’s secretary of state, told The Post that she received tens of thousands of emails in the months after the election and responded to Thomas in the same way she responded to everyone else.
Thomas replied: “Fun that this came to you! Just part of our campaign to help states feel America’s eyes!!!”
In the reply, Thomas’s personalemail address is visible, and it matches an address she has used previously, The Post confirmed. Under her message is an unusual tag line that has appeared in other emails that are confirmed to have been sent by Thomas, including in 2021 to the staff of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R): “Sent from Ginni’s iPhone, a by-product of entrepreneurial free market capitalism. Competition, hard work, innovations and lack of government interference make great things possible! God bless America!”
Thomas was then serving on the board of CNP Action, the political advocacy arm of the Council for National Policy. CNP Action was using its influence in Republican circles at the time to try to keep Trump in office. On Nov. 13, 2020, CNP Action held a workshop titled “Election Results and Legal Battles: What Now?” featuring, among other speakers, Cleta Mitchell, according to an agenda that researcher Brent Allpress provided to theleft-leaning watchdog group Center for Media and Democracy, which published it that same month. Mitchell, a lawyer, assisted Trump in his efforts to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia.
After that workshop, the group circulated guidance to focus efforts on legislators in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona. “Demand that they not abandon their Constitutional responsibilities at a time such as this,” read the guidance, which was also obtained by Allpress and first published by the Center for Media and Democracy. It said to push for new electors “in states where constitutional rights have been violated and evidence of substantial fraud has been established.”
The guidance advised visiting the website everylegalvote.com “to report fraud and take action.”
Visitors to the site could click a button and be taken to freeroots.com, according to webpages preserved by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.That landing page urged visitors to press the “take action” button to “email every swing House and Senate leader in one easy click.”
Because that landing page is no longer online,it is no longer possible to click through on the link. But language in Thomas’s first email aligns closely with language that appears in a preview when a FreeRoots link that was archived several days after that emailis shared on messaging platforms.
The site everylegalvote.com initially said that it was produced in partnership with United in Purpose, a nonprofit group known for gathering and deploying data to galvanize conservativeChristian voters. That organization has hosted the luncheons where Thomas presents her “Impact Awards.”
But the reference to United in Purpose was deletedwithin days. It was replaced with language identifying three “Founding Sponsors”: the Texas security firm Allied Security Operations Group, the Texas nonprofit group Liberty Center for God and Country, and the online talk show “Economic War Room.”
Representatives of United in Purpose and the three sponsors of everylegalvote.com did not respond to messages seeking comment. All three sponsors have promoted election-fraud claims, according to previous Post reports.
In the month after the election, the Trump campaign and other Republicans filed dozens of lawsuits challenging the outcome. By early December, Eastman and Giuliani were telling lawmakers in key swing states won by Biden that they had the authority and even the obligation to disregard the vote and select their own electors.
“Your argument is that essentially we have a failed election that would require the legislature to step in and assign electors. Am I correct?” a Georgia senator asked Eastman during a Dec. 3 hearing.
“Yes,” Eastman said.
The Dec. 13 emails repeated the claim that legislators could “choose” electors.
“As state lawmakers, you have the Constitutional power and authority to protect the integrity of our elections — and we need you to exercise that power now!” the email said. “Never before in our nation’s history have our elections been so threatened by fraud and unconstitutional procedures.”
The two-minute video it linked to,titled “A Word To Heroic Legislators,”has since been removed from YouTube for violating community guidelines. The video’s Web address, which is visible in the email, was included in a December 2020 newsletter written by activist Geoffrey Botkin, who appears to be the person featured in the video.
Botkin, who has published numerous podcasts and videos about the election and other matters, wrote in the newsletter that he had uploaded “A Word To Heroic Legislators” to another video hosting service. The video remains visible there.
“I’m asking you to stand up and lead heroically,” Botkin says in the video,urging lawmakers to appoint electors.
“We have to admit, legally and politically it’s way too late for other people to do it. Clever lawyers or the Supreme Court, they cannot now come to the rescue,” he continues. “This is a moment, a unique moment in American history, demanding that state legislators set America back on her foundations by using a power that you may never have known that you had — but you do have it.”
Botkin did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The video link and some of the language in the email match language that appears in an archived version of the landing page for a freeroots.com email campaign organized by Act for America, a group that has accused U.S. Muslim organizations of supporting terrorism and of trying to impose Islamic law across the country.
A representative of Act for America did not respond to requests for comment.
On Dec. 14, 2020, Biden electors in Arizona cast their votes, after the election results were certified by Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. On that same day, Bolick was among dozens of Arizona lawmakers who signed on to a letter to Congress calling for the state’s electoral votes to go to Trumpor “be nullified completely until a full forensic audit can be conducted.”
Bolick told The Post she signed on to that effort because she backed the idea of an audit, not because of any communication she received from Thomas.
This article was first published by Washington Post