Members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol attack are weighing whether to demand that Ginni Thomas, the wife of the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, cooperate with the inquiry, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
A move to request cooperation from Ginni Thomas, who was revealed to have pushed in text messages to Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows to overturn the results of the 2020 election, would mark one of the most aggressive steps taken by the panel.
The select committee did not formally decide on whether to summon Thomas after a series of private deliberations on Friday, the sources said, even as the members discussed whether to request her voluntary cooperation or compel documents and testimony with a subpoena.
But the renewed discussions – the panel weighed the matter for weeks after it first obtained the text messages – are likely to continue in huddles and on the House floor on Monday before the select committee moves to hold two Trump aides in contempt of Congress, the sources said.
The hesitation to date about demanding that Thomas cooperate with the inquiry appears to have centered in part from concerns that she likely has scant interest in assisting the panel and could seek to create a political spectacle to distract from the investigation.
Thomas, for instance, remains a close friend of prominent rightwing political operatives including Trump’s former strategist Steve Bannon, who last year openly defied a subpoena as he sought to undermine the legitimacy of the select committee.
The other principal concern among some members on the panel is whether it would be worth it to pursue testimony from Thomas at potential political cost if she appears for questioning but then stonewalls the inquiry, one of the sources said, for instance by asserting the fifth amendment.
At least one member on the select committee also appeared to only just learn about the content of the text messages after reading them in news reports on Thursday, one of the sources said.
Justice Thomas remains an icon among the Republican base and some members have warned that a move against his wife would almost certainly be perceived as a partisan attack by Democrats trying to tarnish his reputation, the sources said.
The worries about political backlash has increasingly become a point of contention for the select committee in recent months. The Guardian first reported in January the panel had similar reservations about issuing subpoenas to House Republicans.
The select committee could yet demand cooperation from Thomas, seeking information on whether Thomas knew about the scheme to have then vice-president Mike Pence stop the certification of Joe Biden’s win or plans for Trump supporters to descend on the Capitol January 6.
Other lines of inquiry might include whether she connected lawyer John Eastman, who drew up the Pence scheme and clerked for Justice Thomas, to Trump, and whether she communicated with Meadows during a gap of unexplained correspondence between 24 November and 10 January.
The select committee would then find itself in the bizarre position of having John Wood, also a former clerk for Justice Thomas who now leads the “gold team” examining Trump’s role in the Capitol attack, questioning the senior justice’s wife.
A spokesperson for the select committee declined to comment.
Thomas is facing heightened scrutiny for working as a Republican activist while her husband sits on the supreme court after the Washington Post and CBS reported that she pushed Trump’s most senior White House aide to overturn the 2020 election results.
In one of 29 text messages from Ginni Thomas that Meadows turned over to the select committee, Thomas also pressured the former White House chief of staff to have Trump appoint the conspiracy theorist and lawyer Sidney Powell to lead his post-election legal team.
The communications are significant as they represent the first evidence that she was advising the White House on how to return Trump to office by any means, while her husband ruled on cases attempting to change the outcome of the election.
But Meadows did not turn over any text messages between 24 November and 10 January, the Washington Post and CBS reported – a gap in communications that overlaps with the Capitol attack and would almost certainly be an area of interest to the panel.