Jonathan Turley — a constitutional scholar, professor at George Washington University Law School, and self-described "liberal" — rebuffed Democrats on Sunday for demanding that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas be impeached.
What is the background?
Leftists and Democrats called for Justice Thomas to resign or be impeached last week over text messages that his wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, sent then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows after the 2020 election.
The messages urged Trump's staff to fight against certification of election results. None of the messages referred to Justice Thomas or the Supreme Court. Most of the messages were sent in November 2020, while one message was sent the day after Jan. 6.
Critics of Justice Thomas claimed the messages are proof that Justice Thomas is ethically compromised — and therefore necessitate his resignation or impeachment — despite zero evidence that Justice Thomas has committed any wrongdoing.
What did Turley say?
According to Turley, the reaction from Democrats is par for the course, because when you're a hammer, everything is a nail.
Turley explained in an essay that impeachment demands against Justice Thomas are "entirely disconnected from any constitutional or logical foundation" and demonstrate how Democrats have a "raging impeachment addiction."
The constitutional scholar explained his rationale in three points:
- First, Supreme Court Justices have "long insisted that they are not compelled to follow the Code of Judicial Conduct." And regarding a federal law that requires justices to rescue themselves from cases in which their impartially could be questioned, neither the Supreme Court nor Congress have enforced it.
- Second, Ginni's text messages did not reveal a political position that was not already publicly known. In fact, it is a well-known fact that Ginni is a Trump supporter, and critics of Justice Thomas have long used his wife's political advocacy as a weapon against him.
- Third, and most important, the text messages are completely unrelated to Justice Thomas being the lone dissenting vote in a case in which the Supreme Court authorized the release of Trump-era White House documents to the House committee investigating Jan. 6. The committee already had possession of the messages when Justice Thomas voted in the January 2022 case.
What is most ironic about the impeachment demands, Turley noted, is that Democrats have previously praised efforts questioning the electoral legitimacy of former President George W. Bush.
But the demands also pose a significant problem, one the Founding Fathers sought to avoid.
"The calls for the impeachment of Justice Thomas are ludicrous but there is nothing laughable about the impeachment addiction fueling this frenzy," Turley wrote. "People of good faith can disagree on the need of Thomas to recuse himself from certain Commission-related cases.
"However, impeaching Thomas based on these grounds would expose all justices to the threat of politically motivated impeachments as majorities shift in Congress," he explained. "That is precisely what the Framers sought to avoid under our Constitution."