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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended Justice Clarence Thomas, criticizing “clumsy bullying from the political branches” over Thomas’s handling of cases related to the 2020 presidential election, dismissing calls for Thomas to recuse himself.

“This clumsy bullying from the political branches is really beyond the pale. Justice Thomas is an exemplary jurist who has modeled fidelity to the rule of law for more than 30 years and counting,” McConnell said in his remarks.

McConnell also referred to Thomas as a “great American” and further hit back at Thomas’s critics.

“It has no basis in Justice Thomas’s decades of impeccable service on the court. The justice and the entire court should feel free to completely ignore all this,” McConnell said, referring to these efforts as an “inappropriate pressure campaign.”

McConnell’s remarks came as Thomas continues to participate in oral arguments despite the controversy surrounding his wife’s involvement on January 6 angered his critics.

Thomas now faces mounting ethics concerns amid reports that his wife Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, was involved in the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election, playing a key role in pressuring the White House to back former President Donald Trump’s lies that the election had been stolen from him.

The House Select Committee tasked with investigating the January 6 insurrection has in its possession 29 text messages between former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Ginni Thomas that show Thomas urging Meadows to continue the effort the overturn the election results.

The committee obtained the messages because Meadows turned over thousands of text messages before he stopped cooperating with the committee.  Ginni Thomas has previously claimed that she attended the “Stop the Steal” rally ahead of the attack on the United States Capitol but that she did not play a role in plotting the attack itself.

Amid the controversy, experts are calling on Thomas to recuse himself, saying his wife’s political activities constitutes what The Hill referred to as “an ethically troubling overlap with her husband’s judicial position.”

“The subpoena of documents when his wife’s own texts are among the pile of documents responsive to the subpoena — that’s a slam dunk,” says Richard Painter, who served as ethics counsel for the George W. Bush White House. “He had to recuse. He didn’t. I’d want to know why.”

NYU law professor Stephen Gillers concurred.

“It was his obligation as a justice under the recusal statute to ensure that nothing she had been doing warranted his recusal,” he told NPR, adding that Thomas “could not maintain a kind of false ignorance, closing his eyes and ears.”

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