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Senate Democrat says Justice Thomas should recuse in cases involving Trump, Jan. 6 Capitol riot

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, left and his wife Virginia Thomas, right, leave the the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington after attending funeral services of the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, on Feb. 20, 2016.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais | AP

A top Senate Democrat on Friday said Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself from any case related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and the 2024 election should Donald Trump run for president again.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said Thomas’ conduct “looks increasingly corrupt,” a day after the disclosure that the justice’s wife Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist, implored Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to fight to reverse President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. In a series of 29 texts in late 2020 and early 2021, she urged Meadows to try to overturn the result.

The Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot began shortly after a Trump rally, which Ginni Thomas attended. During the event, the then-president urged supporters to march to Congress and pressure lawmakers not to confirm Biden’s win.

“Help This Great President stand firm, Mark!!!,” Ginni Thomas wrote Meadows on Nov. 10, 2021, three days after media outlets projected Biden as the winner.

“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,” she said.

Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the revelation cast doubts on Clarence Thomas’ ability to hear key cases.

“In light of new reporting from numerous outlets, Justice Thomas’ conduct on the Supreme Court looks increasingly corrupt,” Wyden said in a statement.

“Judges are obligated to recuse themselves when their participation in a case would create even the appearance of a conflict of interest. A person with an ounce of common sense could see that bar is met here,” he said.

Wyden noted that Thomas had not recused himself in cases related to the 2020 election, and to the Jan. 6 riot.

“Justice Thomas participated in cases related to Donald Trump’s efforts to rig and then overturn the 2020 election, while his wife was pushing to do the same,” Wyden said.

“He was the lone dissent in a case that could have denied the January 6th Committee records pertaining to the same plot his wife supported,” he added.

“At the bare minimum, Justice Thomas needs to recuse himself from any case related to the January 6th investigation, and should Donald Trump run again, any case related to the 2024 election,” the senator said.

Wyden is the first senator to publicly call for Clarence Thomas not to hear Jan. 6 cases since the texts were reported.

Earlier Friday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he did not believe Thomas should recuse himself in Jan. 6 cases.

No, I think Justice Thomas could make his decisions like he’s made every other time. It’s his decision based upon law,” McCarthy told reporters.

McCarthy himself voted against counting certified election results from two states Biden won. The select House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol asked McCarthy for information about his communications with Trump earlier this year, but he refused to cooperate.

CNBC has requested comment from both Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts through the Supreme Court’s spokesman.

Thomas in January was the only one of nine justices to dissent in a ruling that denied Trump’s effort to prevent hundreds of pages of presidential records from being given to the House panel investigating the Capitol riot.

Thomas was also one of three conservative justices to dissent to the Supreme Court deciding in February 2021 not to hear an appeal of lower court decisions that had allowed absentee ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted days after Election Day in 2020.

Trump lost Pennsylvania and multiple other swing states to Biden. He has falsely claimed since then that he was the victim of widespread ballot fraud.

Clarence Thomas was released from a Washington, D.C., hospital on Friday morning, where he had spent a week being treated for an infection, the Supreme Court said.

This is breaking news. Check back for updates.

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