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This Is Not How You Wield Power: Toxic Punditry’s Lack of Self Awareness

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

This is complete and utter bullshit:

We all know asking Justice Clarence Thomas to recuse himself is merely pissing into the wind. Congressional Democrats are obligated to ask this of him but they know Thomas is corrupt and won’t give the demand a second thought.

What’s bullshit, though, is MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan and Ayman Mohyeldin ripping into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about a request by Democrats to Thomas for his recusal on cases related to the January 6 insurrection.

We all know as well the real problem is that Thomas should be removed from the Supreme Court. Pelosi was absolutely correct saying that Thomas should never have been approved as a SCOTUS jurist to begin with. His failure to report his spouse’s income appropriately — particularly Ginni Thomas’s income from her nonprofit — during the lead up to the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision was unacceptable, as was his meeting with the Koch brothers.

But the House had absolutely nothing to do with Thomas being approved in the first place. The Senate is responsible for review of nominees to the Supreme Court and their approval.

We all know, too, that the House may impeach jurists, but they cannot be removed without a two-thirds vote for conviction by the Senate.

And in this case, a Senate which is only nominally held by Democrats. They couldn’t convict and remove Trump twice after impeachment for the same reason — an inadequate number of Democrats in the Senate.

Where is this power that Hasan and Mohyeldin think Pelosi has as House Speaker when she cannot remove Thomas? Why are they insisting she launch a war she can’t win? (We can see how that works out for Putin in Ukraine.)

All these two boneheaded pundits (and others making the same argument like them) are doing is misogynist pontificating when they know it’s the Senate which can force the issue and only if there were two-thirds of the Senate willing to vote to convict Thomas for his continued corrupt practices.

Yet you don’t see pundits like Hasan and Mohyeldin going after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Nope.

Why is that?

~ ~ ~

They’re literally filling empty air time with useless crap which only serves to damage the public’s opinion of House Democrats — the portion of government which has most reliably served the needs of the people during the Biden administration while the Senate obstructs its efforts.

They’re directly contributing to and amplifying the same poisoning of public opinion already performed by right-wing media outlets Fox News, Newsmax, and OAN, grossly distorting the public’s perception of US government.

It’s right there in front of their noses and they don’t see it:

Hello, Sam Stein, who’s with both MSNBC and Politico? You’re not doing a very good job breaking through to the public if they believe the complete opposite of the truth.

Dan Froomkin elaborated on media’s failures with help from Dean Baker; public opinion about employment is particularly telling.

An additional 21 percent didn’t know one way or the other. Only 28 percent said, correctly, that jobs were created. Less than half of those — only 12 percent — knew that it was more jobs created than in any other year in history.

Similarly, only 19 percent said they thought the U.S. economy experienced more job growth than normal in the past year. The plurality – 35 percent – said they thought more jobs were lost than usual, which is of course spectacularly wrong.

Media figures go out of their way to make sure something looks like it’s on fire or bleeding, so much so that it’s a joke.

But sure, keep beating on House Speaker Pelosi because that will effect the change needed as will pissing into the wind.

~ ~ ~

A pre-print study found that it’s not solely the public at fault when it comes to misperception — it’s not purely partisanship which mis- or disinforms their opinions.

A key problem is the business model: audience members’ understanding and opinions could be shaped by exposure to media, if media bought their time.

Unfortunately, cable and broadcast news don’t pay their viewers. They rely on advertising and subscription volume; their programming becomes little more than reductive clickbait fighting for audience attention. They’ll run the inflammatory material which skews public opinion the wrong way because good news is boring.

It makes sense, and yet the answer to running content which is both more attention-grabbing and -retaining to viewers and the ethically responsible content to run is right there under their noses.

Assuming, of course, the media outlets aren’t forcing their pundit-anchor class to promote corporatism über alles.

Why aren’t programs like Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s contacting every goddamned Senator and putting them on the record one at a time on camera about their position on Thomas’s failure to recuse himself and whether they would vote to convict him if impeached for abuse of his office as jurist?

I’d pay to watch them squirm. I’d pay to watch Senators’ chiefs of staff run away from mics to avoid answering.

I’d pay to watch them ask Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tommy Tuberville if Thomas should recuse himself on any lawsuit in which they may be named as co-conspirators because Thomas’s wife Ginni sided with Hawley and Cruz on overturning or obstructing the election…and was it obstruction of Congress or overturning an election in which they had been encouraged to participate?

That’d be Must-See TV.

~ ~ ~

The other person who gets off lightly all the damn time to the point every media outlet forgets he exists: Chief Justice John Roberts.

He’s the administrative leader of SCOTUS. Every decision made during his tenure will be attributed to the Roberts’ court.

Clarence Thomas’s unmitigated corruption including the damage to democracy Thomas’s role in Citizen United played is the product of Roberts’ court.

The lack of a self-imposed binding code of conduct is Roberts’ failure. Thomas’s refusal to recuse himself from January 6 cases which may be decided by SCOTUS is also his failure.

The lack of legislation requiring a SCOTUS code of conduct with adequate teeth to ensure enforcement is Congress’s fault, but primary responsibility is that of the Senate. In its absence Roberts could administer his court in a way which enforces judicial ethics.

Why wasn’t Roberts a subject of Hasan’s and Mohyeldin’s critique when Roberts clearly has the power to rein in corruption among his jurists?

~ ~ ~

But the real power to which Hasan and Mohyeldin deliberately turned a blind eye wasn’t Nancy Pelosi’s as House Speaker.

It wasn’t even Chuck Schumer’s, or John Roberts’ power.

That pre-print study says it’s their own. How convenient these media figures with a bully pulpit have a handy favorite punching bag to use as clickbait, redirecting attention away from their own failures as media figures with sizable audiences whose perception they shape.

By the way, you have power, too. You should be exercising it by calling your representative and senators and demanding legislation to implement a code of ethical judicial conduct for the Supreme Court (since Roberts appears unable or unwilling to produce one), and impeachment and conviction of Clarence Thomas for his lack of ethics as a jurist.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

On Ginni Thomas’ Obstruction Exposure and Clarence’s Former Clerk, Carl Nichols

In a motions hearing for January 6 assault defendant Garret Miller on November 22, former Clarence Thomas clerk Carl Nichols asked the appellate prosecutor for the January 6 investigation, James Pearce, whether someone asking Mike Pence to invalidate the vote count could be charged with the obstruction statute, 18 USC 1512(c)(2), that Miller was challenging. Pearce replied that the person in question would have to know that such a request of the Vice President was improper.

At a hearing on Monday for defendant Garret Miller of Richardson, Texas, Nichols made the first move toward a Trump analogy by asking a prosecutor whether the obstruction statute could have been violated by someone who simply “called Vice President Pence to seek to have him adjudge the certification in a particular way.” The judge also asked the prosecutor to assume the person trying to persuade Pence had the “appropriate mens rea,” or guilty mind, to be responsible for a crime.

Nichols made no specific mention of Trump, who appointed him to the bench, but the then-president was publicly and privately pressuring Pence in the days before the fateful Jan. 6 tally to decline to certify Joe Biden’s victory. Trump also enlisted other allies, including attorney John Eastman, to lean on Pence.

An attorney with the Justice Department Criminal Division, James Pearce, initially seemed to dismiss the idea that merely lobbying Pence to refuse to recognize the electoral result would amount to the crime of obstructing or attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.

“I don’t see how that gets you that,” Pearce told the judge.

However, Pearce quickly added that it might well be a crime if the person reaching out to Pence knew the vice president had an obligation under the Constitution to recognize the result.

“If that person does that knowing it is not an available argument [and is] asking the vice president to do something the individual knows is wrongful … one of the definitions of ‘corruptly’ is trying to get someone to violate a legal duty,” Pearce said.

At the time (as Josh Gerstein wrote up in his piece), we knew that former Clarence Thomas clerk John Eastman had pressured Pence to throw out legal votes.

But we’ve since learned far more details about Eastman’s actions, including his admissions to Pence’s counsel, Greg Jacob, that there was no way SCOTUS would uphold the claim. In fact, those admissions were cited in Judge David Carter’s opinion finding that Eastman himself likely obstructed the vote count by pressuring Pence to reject the valid votes, because he knew that not even Clarence Thomas would buy this argument.

Ultimately, Dr. Eastman conceded that his argument was contrary to consistent historical practice,37 would likely be unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court,38 and violated the Electoral Count Act on four separate grounds.39

[snip]

Dr. Eastman himself repeatedly recognized that his plan had no legal support. In his discussion with the Vice President’s counsel, Dr. Eastman “acknowledged” the “100 percent consistent historical practice since the time of the Founding” that the Vice President did not have the authority to act as the memo proposed.254 More importantly, Dr. Eastman admitted more than once that “his proposal violate[d] several provisions of statutory law,”255 including explicitly characterizing the plan as “one more relatively minor violation” of the Electoral Count Act.256 In addition, on January 5, Dr. Eastman conceded that the Supreme Court would unanimously reject his plan for the Vice President to reject electoral votes.257 Later that day, Dr. Eastman admitted that his “more palatable” idea to have the Vice President delay, rather than reject counting electors, rested on “the same basic legal theory” that he knew would not survive judicial scrutiny.258

We’ve also learned more details about Ginni Thomas’ role in pressuring Mark Meadows to champion an attempt to steal the election, including — after a gap in the texts produced to the January 6 Committee — attacking Pence.

The committee received one additional message sent by Thomas to Meadows, on Jan. 10, four days after the “Stop the Steal” rally Thomas said she attended and the deadly attack on the Capitol.

In that message, Thomas expresses support for Meadows and Trump — and directed anger at Vice President Mike Pence, who had refused Trump’s wishes to block the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral college victory.

“We are living through what feels like the end of America,” Thomas wrote to Meadows. “Most of us are disgusted with the VP and are in listening mode to see where to fight with our teams. Those who attacked the Capitol are not representative of our great teams of patriots for DJT!!”

“Amazing times,” she added. “The end of Liberty.”

Ginni Thomas famously remains close with a network of Clarence’s former clerks, so much so she apologized to a listserv of former Justice Thomas clerks for her antics after the insurrection.

Any former Thomas clerk on that listserv would likely understand how exposed in efforts to overturn the vote certification Ginni was.

As I said, little of that was known, publicly, when former Justice Thomas clerk Carl Nichols asked whether someone who pressured Pence could be exposed for obstruction. We didn’t even, yet, know all these details when Judge Nichols ruled in Miller’s case on March 7, alone thus far of all the DC District judges, against DOJ’s application of that obstruction statute. While we had just learned some of the details about Jacobs’ interactions with former Thomas clerk John Eastman, we did not yet know how centrally involved Ginni was — frankly, we still don’t know, especially since the texts Mark Meadows turned over to the January 6 Committee have a gap during the days when Eastman was most aggressively pressuring Pence.

DOJ may know but if it does it’s not telling.

But now we know more of those details and now we know that Judge Carter found that Eastman and Trump likely did obstruct the vote certification. All those details, combined with Nichols’ treatment of the Miller decision as one that might affect others, up to and including Ginni Thomas and John Eastman and Trump, sure makes it look a lot more suspect that a former Clarence Thomas clerk would write such an outlier decision.

Which brings us to the tactics of this DOJ motion to reconsider filed yesterday in the Miller case. It makes two legal arguments and one logical one.

As I laid out here, Nichols ruled that the vote certification was an official proceeding, but that the statute in question only applied to obstruction achieved via the destruction of documents. He also held that there was sufficient uncertainty about what the statute means that the rule of lenity — basically the legal equivalent of “tie goes to the runner” — would apply.

DOJ challenged Nichols’ claim that there was enough uncertainty for the rule of lenity to apply. After all, the shade-filled motion suggested, thirteen of Nichols’ colleagues have found little such uncertainty.

First, the Court erred by applying the rule of lenity. Rejecting an interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2)’s scope that every other member of this Court to have considered the issue and every reported case to have considered the issue (to the government’s knowledge) has adopted, the Court found “serious ambiguity” in the statute. Mem. Op. at 28. The rule of lenity applies “‘only if, after seizing everything from which aid can be derived,’” the statute contains “a ‘grievous ambiguity or uncertainty,’” and the Court “‘can make no more than a guess as to what Congress intended.’” Ocasio v. United States, 578 U.S. 282, 295 n.8 (2016) (quoting Muscarello v. United States, 524 U.S. 125, 138-39 (1998)) (emphasis added); see also Mem. Op. at 9 (citing “‘grievous’ ambiguity” standard). Interpreting Section 1512(c)(2) consistently with its plain language to reach any conduct that “obstructs, influences, or impedes” a qualifying proceeding does not give rise to “serious” or “grievous” ambiguity.

[snip]

First, the Court erred by applying the rule of lenity to Section 1512(c)(2) because, as many other judges have concluded after examining the statute’s text, structure, and history, there is no genuine—let alone “grievous” or “serious”—ambiguity.

[snip]

Confirming the absence of ambiguity—serious, grievous, or otherwise—is that despite Section 1512(c)(2)’s nearly 20-year existence, no other judge has found ambiguity in Section 1512(c)(2), including eight judges on this Court considering the same law and materially identical facts. See supra at 5-6.

[snip]

Before this Court’s decision to the contrary, every reported case to have considered the scope of Section 1512(c)(2), see Gov’t Supp. Br., ECF 74, at 7-9, 1 and every judge on this Court to have considered the issue in cases arising out of the events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, see supra at 5-6, concluded that Section 1512(c)(2) “prohibits obstruction by means other than document destruction.” Sandlin, 2021 WL 5865006, at *5. [my emphasis; note, not all of the 13 challenges to 1512(c)(2) that were rejected made a rule of lenity argument, which is why AUSA Pearce cited eight judges]

Among the other things that this argument will force Nichols to do if he wants to sustain his decision, on top of doubling down on being the extreme outlier on this decision, is to engage with all his colleagues’ opinions rather than (as he did in his original opinion) just with Judge Randolph Moss’.

The government then argued that by deciding that 1512(c)(2) applied to the vote certification but only regarding tampering with documents, Nichols was not actually ruling against DOJ, because he can only dismiss the charge at this stage if the defendant, Miller, doesn’t know what he is charged with, not if the evidence wouldn’t support such a charge.

Although Miller has styled his challenge to Section 1512(c)(2)’s scope as an attack on the indictment’s validity, the scope of the conduct covered under Section 1512(c)(2) is distinct from whether Count Three adequately states a violation of Section 1512(c)(2).6 Here, Count Three of the indictment puts Miller on notice as to the charges against which he must defend himself, while also encompassing both the broader theory that a defendant violates Section 1512(c)(2) through any corrupt conduct that “obstructs, impedes, or influences” an official proceeding and the narrower theory that a defendant must “have taken some action with respect to a document,” Mem. Op. at 28, in order to violate Section 1512(c)(2). The Court’s conclusion that only the narrower theory is a viable basis for conviction should not result in dismissal of Count Three in full; instead, the Court would properly enforce that limitation by permitting conviction on that basis alone.

The government argues that that means, given Nichols’ ruling, the government must be given the opportunity to prove that Miller’s actions were an attempt to spoil the actual vote certifications that had to be rushed out of the Chambers as mobsters descended.

Even assuming the Court’s interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2) were correct, and that the government therefore must prove “Miller took some action with respect to a document, record, or other object in order to corruptly obstruct, impede[,] or influence Congress’s certification of the electoral vote,” Mem. Op. at 29, the Court cannot determine whether Miller’s conduct meets that test until after a trial, at which the government is not limited to the specific allegations in the indictment. 7 And at trial, the government could prove that the Certification proceeding “operates through a deliberate and legally prescribed assessment of ballots, lists, certificates, and, potentially, written objections.” ECF 74, at 41. For example, evidence would show Congress had before it boxes carried into the House chamber at the beginning of the Joint Session that contained “certificates of votes from the electors of all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.” Reffitt, supra, Trial Tr. at 1064 (Mar. 4, 2022) (testimony of the general counsel to the Secretary of the United States Senate) (attached as Exhibit B).

Those are the two legal arguments the government has invited Nichols to reconsider.

But along the way of making those arguments, DOJ pointed out the absurd result dictated by Nichols’ opinion: That Guy Reffitt’s physical threats against members of Congress or the threat Miller is accused of making against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would not be obstruction, because neither man touched any documents.

Any such distinction between these forms of obstruction produces the absurd result that a defendant who attempts to destroy a document being used or considered by a tribunal violates Section 1512(c) but a defendant who threatens to use force against the officers conducting that proceeding escapes criminal liability under the statute.

[snip]

Finally, an interpretation of Section 1512(c)(2) that imposes criminal liability only when an individual takes direct action “with respect to a document, record, or other object” to obstruct a qualifying proceeding leads to absurd results. See United States v. X-Citement Video, Inc., 513 U.S. 64, 69 (1994) (rejecting interpretation of a criminal statute that would “produce results that were not merely odd, but positively absurd”). That interpretation would appear, for example, not to encompass an individual who seeks to “obstruct[], influence[], or impede[]” a congressional proceeding by explicitly stating that he intends to stop the legislators from performing their constitutional and statutory duties to certify Electoral College vote results by “drag[ging] lawmakers out of the Capitol by their heels with their heads hitting every step,” United States v. Reffitt, 21-cr-32 (DLF), Trial Tr. 1502, carrying a gun onto Capitol grounds, id. at 1499, and then leading a “mob and encourag[ing] it to charge toward federal officers, pushing them aside to break into the Capitol,” id. at 1501-02, unless he also picked up a “document or record” related to the proceeding during that violent assault. The statutory text does not require such a counterintuitive result.

The mention of Reffitt is surely included not just to embarrass Nichols by demonstrating the absurdity of his result. It is tactical.

Right now, there are two obstruction cases that might be the first to be appealed to the DC Circuit. This decision, or Guy Reffitt’s conviction, including on the obstruction count.

By asking Nichols to reconsider, DOJ may have bought time such that Reffitt will appeal before they would appeal Nichols’ decision. But by including language about Reffitt’s threats to lawmakers, DOJ has ensured not just the Reffitt facts and outcome will be available if and when they do appeal, but so would (if they are forced to appeal this decision) a Nichols decision upholding the absurd result that Reffitt didn’t obstruct the vote certification. Including the language puts him on the hook for it if he wants to force DOJ to appeal his decision.

I said in my post on Nichols’ opinion that DOJ probably considered themselves lucky that Nichols had argued for such an absurd result.

They may count themselves lucky that this particular opinion is not a particularly strong argument against their application. Nichols basically argues that intimidating Congress by assaulting the building is not obstruction of what he concedes is an official proceeding.

By including Reffitt in their motion for reconsideration, DOJ has made it part of the official record if and when they do appeal Nichols’ decision.

This would be a dick-wagging filing even absent the likelihood that Nichols has some awareness of Ginni Thomas’ antics and possibly even Eastman’s. It holds Nichols to account for blowing off virtually all the opinions of his colleagues, including fellow Trump appointees Dabney Friedrich and Tim Kelly, forcing him to defend his stance as the outlier it is.

But that is all the more true given that there’s now so much public evidence that Nichols’ deviant decision might have some tie to his personal relationship with the Thomases and even the non-public evidence of Ginni’s own role.

Plus, by making any appeal of this opinion — up to the Supreme Court, possibly — pivot on how and why Nichols came up with such an outlier opinion, it would make Justice Thomas’ participation in the decision far more problematic.


Carl Nichols, March 7, 2022, Miller

David Carter, March 28, 2022, Eastman

Opinions upholding obstruction application:

  1. Dabney Friedrich, December 10, 2021, Sandlin
  2. Amit Mehta, December 20, 2021, Caldwell
  3. James Boasberg, December 21, 2021, Mostofsky
  4. Tim Kelly, December 28, 2021, Nordean
  5. Randolph Moss, December 28, 2021, Montgomery
  6. Beryl Howell, January 21, 2022, DeCarlo
  7. John Bates, February 1, 2022, McHugh
  8. Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, February 9, 2022, Grider
  9. Richard Leon (by minute order), February 24, 2022, Costianes
  10. Christopher Cooper, February 25, 2022, Robertson
  11. Rudolph Contreras, announced March 8, released March 14, Andries
  12. Paul Friedman, March 19, Puma

 

Clarence Thomas’ Non-Recusal Might Have Also Hidden the Missing Mark Meadows Texts

As folks were discussing in comments, yesterday WaPo and CBS revealed damning details about communications between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows leading up to the insurrection. About 1% of the texts Meadows turned over to the January 6 Committee involved Ms. Thomas.

The messages, which do not directly reference Justice Thomas or the Supreme Court, show for the first time how Ginni Thomas used her access to Trump’s inner circle to promote and seek to guide the president’s strategy to overturn the election results — and how receptive and grateful Meadows said he was to receive her advice. Among Thomas’s stated goals in the messages was for lawyer Sidney Powell, who promoted incendiary and unsupported claims about the election, to be “the lead and the face” of Trump’s legal team.

The text messages were among 2,320 that Meadows provided to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The content of messages between Thomas and Meadows — 21 sent by her, eight by him – has not previously been reported. They were reviewed by The Post and CBS News and then confirmed by five people who have seen the committee’s documents.

[snip]

It is unknown whether Ginni Thomas and Meadows exchanged additional messages between the election and Biden’s inauguration beyond the 29 received by the committee. Shortly after providing the 2,320 messages, Meadows ceased cooperating with the committee, arguing that any further engagement could violate Trump’s claims of executive privilege. Committee members and aides said they believe the messages may be just a portion of the pair’s total exchanges.

As WaPo notes, after November 24, there are no more texts provided to the Committee until after the riot.

The text exchanges with Thomas that Meadows provided to the House select committee pause after Nov. 24, 2020, with an unexplained gap in correspondence. The committee received one additional message sent by Thomas to Meadows, on Jan. 10, four days after the “Stop the Steal” rally Thomas said she attended and the deadly attack on the Capitol.

You can click through to read what a nutjob Ms. Thomas is. But for this post, I’m interested in the how the texts that got turned over or did not relate to Justice Thomas’ decision, on January 19, not just not to recuse from the decision on whether Trump’s invocation of privilege over materials at the Archives, but to cast the single vote to uphold Trump’s privilege claim. Thomas’ participation in that decision may have had the effect of making a decision that would have — if four other Justices agreed with him — had the effect of shielding damning communications involving his spouse.

This table is just a sketch, but one I hope helps the discussion among those who know the law and the details of the various requests better than I. This table shows that had Thomas’ decision been successful, it probably would have prevented damning texts from his spouse from being shared with the Committee (or, ultimately, DOJ’s criminal investigators), but just as importantly would have hidden the absence and possible destruction of some records that would be covered both by the Presidential Records Act (marked as PRA in the table) and relevant to the by-then ongoing grand jury investigation (marked as obstruction).

Several factors affect the legal status of any texts that should have been covered by Justice Thomas’ participation:

  • Trump’s claims of privilege were absurdly broad, covering things like visitor logs that under other Presidents are routinely released
  • While Mark Meadows’ claims of privilege were not as absurd as (say) Steve Bannon’s, it seems likely he, too, took an expansive approach to privilege claims
  • All of Trump’s flunkies (including Meadows and Bannon) were using Trump’s claims of privilege to justify withholding purportedly privileged in their own possession
  • Anything Meadows claimed was covered by privilege would be covered by the Presidential Records Act and so should have been — but in Meadows’ case, because he did White House business on his personal email and phone, often were not — shared with the Archives
  • Mark Meadows replaced his phone after the time multiple grand juries had started an investigation into January 6; replacing his phone had the likely effect of destroying any communications not otherwise stored in or backed up to the cloud; the risk he destroyed Signal texts is particularly high

Justice Thomas’ decision would have covered everything in the first line: privileged comms that were properly archived, privileged stuff that Meadows didn’t archive, and privileged stuff that got destroyed. The scenario I’m seeing a lot of people address is just box (A), with the logic being, what if there were comms that were actually archived involving Ginni that were deemed privileged, what if those comms were especially damning?

But the decision that such comms are not privileged means the Committee and DOJ can now address stuff in Meadows’ possession and/or that have been destroyed. As it happened, the Committee has been able to identify Meadows comms in box (E) and possibly even in box (F) via his production: things that should have been archived but were not (this post and this post address the kinds of communications described in Meadows’ contempt referral are in box (E)). It is virtually certain there are a bunch of comms in box (B): stuff Meadows treated as privileged that were not properly archived. Now both the Committee and DOJ can claim those are covered by his contempt. In the process, the Committee or, more likely, DOJ may discover communications involving the former President that should have been archived, proof not just that Meadows is in contempt, but also that he violated the PRA.

The real risk to Meadows, though — and the place where Justice Thomas’ ethical violations could turn into something else — comes in box (C): with comms that, because of the broadness of the original privilege claims, would be treated under Trump’s now defeated privilege claim, but comms that, because Meadows replaced his phone during an ongoing grand jury investigation, the destruction of which might amount to obstruction of that investigation.

What DOJ is doing with other criminal subjects in the January 6 investigation is identifying Signal and Telegram texts that got destroyed on one phone by seizing the phones of others who did not destroy their side of the communication. In the case of Meadows, for example, we’ve already identified a Signal text that seems to remain in Jim Jordan’s custody but that Meadows may no longer have.

Justice Thomas’ failed attempt to uphold Trump’s (and therefore Meadows’) insanely broad privilege claims might have had the effect of making it clear that Meadows had destroyed privileged communications that would be covered by the ongoing January 6 grand jury investigation.

It’s not just embarrassing texts involving his spouse that Justice Thomas could have covered up with his participation in that decision. It is also potential criminal obstruction exposure because Meadows replaced his phone.

Particularly given the big gap in texts in what Meadows turned over between November 24 and January 10, those might be far more important than the crazypants things Ginni said.

When Did Clarence Thomas Go to the Koch Conspiracy Fest? And Did He Bring Ginni?

As you’ve no doubt heard, the right wing conspiracy does exist. As the NYT reported the other day, the Koch brothers host semi-annual secret get-togethers to strategize with other rich conservatives and media people about how to advance their views.

The participants in Aspen dined under the stars at the top of the gondola run on Aspen Mountain, and listened to Glenn Beck of Fox News in a session titled, “Is America on the Road to Serfdom?” (The title refers to a classic of Austrian economic thought that informs libertarian ideology, popularized by Mr. Beck on his show.)The participants included some of the nation’s wealthiest families and biggest names in finance: private equity and hedge fund executives like John Childs, Cliff Asness, Steve Schwarzman and Ken Griffin; Phil Anschutz, the entertainment and media mogul ranked by Forbes as the 34th-richest person in the country; Rich DeVos, the co-founder of Amway; Steve Bechtel of the giant construction firm; and Kenneth Langone of Home Depot.

Sure, we’ve known that rich people work like this for a while; this report simply provides documentation of it.

But one detail of the NYT report deserves further scrutiny: the report that Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia have attended the gathering.

To encourage new participants, Mr. Koch offers to waive the $1,500 registration fee. And he notes that previous guests have included Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court, Gov. Haley Barbour and Gov. Bobby Jindal, Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn, and Representatives Mike Pence, Tom Price and Paul D. Ryan. [my emphasis]

Again, it’s not a surprise that the guy who duck-hunted with Dick Cheney while reviewing a suit involving the Vice President would hang around with the conservative elite.

But the report raises a whole slew of questions.

Think Progress has an important post looking at how Scalia and Thomas have been instrumental in loosening campaign finance regulations, which has made it a lot easier for people like the Kochs to buy elections.

But Scalia and Thomas have been involved in more than just rulings that make it easier for the Kochs to win election.

After all, they once cast two of the only nine votes to matter in the 2000 Presidential election.

They’ve not only issued rulings that make it easier for conservatives to win elections, they’ve decided an election. And one of the most obvious explanations for why Thomas and Scalia have attended at least one of these secret shindigs but not Sam Alito or John Roberts would be if they attended before the latter two were SCOTUS Justices. You know, back before Thomas and Scalia selected a President.

So did Thomas and Scalia attend a meeting strategizing how to win elections before the decided one?

And then there’s the other question: whether Ginni Thomas, the founder of an organization that bridges mainstream conservatives with the TeaBagger movement, attended the gathering.

The invitation from this year’s shindig shows that most attendees bring their spouses. So if Thomas followed the norm, then Ginni would have attended with him. Which would put Ginni Thomas, now a big player in the TeaBagger movement, at an event hosted by the guys who are bankrolling the TeaBagger movement.

The Koch brothers would already be leading candidates to be funding Liberty Central. The Koch brothers would already be leading candidates to be the source of the $500,000 or $50,000 donations from undisclosed individuals to Liberty Central. The Koch brothers–and their funding of TeaBagger activities–have been central in opposing the health care reform that Liberty Central has called unconstitutional.

But it would be very neat if the Koch brothers recruited Ginni Thomas to front this group at their secret cabal meeting, wouldn’t it?