Trump Meets With Hard-Right Group Led by Virginia "Ginni" Thomas

SOURCE:, 2019-01-26
This page last modified: 2022-02-10 14:42:15 -0800 (PST)

  • Article by By Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni.

    President Trump met last week [2019-01] with a delegation of hard-right activists led by Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, listening quietly as members of the group denounced transgender people and women serving in the military, according to three people with direct knowledge of the events.

    For 60 minutes Mr. Trump sat, saying little but appearing taken aback, the three people said, as the group also accused White House aides of blocking Trump supporters from getting jobs in the administration.

    It is unusual for the spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice to have such a meeting with a president, and some close to Mr. Trump said it was inappropriate for Ms. Thomas to have asked to meet with the head of a different branch of government.

    A vocal conservative, Ms. Thomas has long been close to what had been the Republican Party's fringes, and extremely outspoken against Democrats. Her activism has raised concerns of conflicts of interest for her husband Clarence Thomas, who is perhaps the most conservative member of the Supreme Court.

    A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the meeting, and Ms. Thomas did not respond to an email seeking comment.

    During the meeting last Thursday in the Roosevelt Room, which was attended by about a half-dozen White House aides, one woman argued that women should not serve in the military because they had less muscle mass and lung capacity than men did, according to those familiar with the events. At another point, someone said that gay marriage, which the Supreme Court determined in 2015 was the law of the land, was harming the fabric of the United States. And another attendee was dismissive that sexual assault is pervasive in the military.

    The meeting was arranged after months of delay, according to the three people. It came about after the Thomases had dinner with the president and the first lady, Melania Trump, the people said.

    Ms. Thomas was an ardent supporter of Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, during the 2016 presidential primaries. But she shifted her support to Mr. Trump when he became the nominee and has forcefully denounced his political critics.

    Others at the meeting had also opposed Mr. Trump's candidacy at one point.

    One of them, Connie Hair, was identified by Ms. Thomas's group as a conservative columnist when the meeting was being assembled, according to the people. In reality, she is the chief of staff to Representative Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas. During the campaign, Connie Hair had posted several comments on Twitter describing Mr. Trump as unfit for office, including calling him "certifiable" and saying he would "never be elected president."

    In the meeting, Ms. Hair described herself as a strong Trump supporter, according to those familiar with the events. Ms. Hair did not respond to an email seeking comment.

    A central focus for Ms. Hair and Ms. Thomas was administration appointments that they wanted made and that they accused the president's aides of blocking. People familiar with the situation indicated that the people Ms. Hair and Ms. Thomas wanted hired were rejected for a range of reasons, and in at least one case someone was offered a job and declined it because the position was not considered senior enough. Another complaint was that Ms. Thomas had not actually shared the full list of people to be hired, said those familiar with the meeting.

    Others attending included Frank Gaffney, the founder of the Center for Security Policy who has advocated curtailing immigration and has repeatedly denounced Muslims, and Rosemary Jenks, who works for the anti-immigration group NumbersUSA, according to the people familiar with the events.

    Ms. Thomas -- whose group, Groundswell, was formed in 2013 to strategize against Democrats and the political left and meets weekly -- joined others in prayer at the start of the meeting. Some members of the group prayed at different moments as the meeting continued. At one point, Mr. Trump pulled in his daughter Ivanka, a West Wing adviser, saying she would be beloved if she were serving a liberal president, instead of getting negative news coverage.

    One attendee criticized Republican congressional leaders, saying they should be "tarred and feathered," a person briefed on the meeting said. Mr. Trump defended the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, saying that they had held strong for nearly five weeks of a shutdown, and that it was not clear what else the attendees thought they could be doing.

    Ms. Thomas, who was said to have opened the meeting by informing the assembled White House staff members that she feared being open because she did not trust the people there, has long been more conservative than her husband, and has often provoked controversy.

    In 2011 Virginia Thomas formed a government affairs firm called Liberty Consulting, which drew criticism for boasting on its website that Ms. Thomas would use her "experience and connections" to help clients.

    More recently, Virginia Thomas hired as an assistant a woman named Crystal Clanton, who was on the list of people Ms. Thomas's group asked to have attend the meeting, the people familiar with the sit-down said. Crystal Clanton was fired by the conservative group Turning Point USA for texting a colleague a year earlier that "I HATE BLACK PEOPLE."

    Virginia Thomas has also drawn criticism for sharing social media posts promoting conspiracy theories, including one suggesting that the billionaire philanthropist George Soros was working against Mr. Trump, and that Democrats had committed voter fraud during last year's midterm elections. Shortly before the elections, Ms. Thomas also shared a misleading post about the caravan of migrants traveling toward the United States.

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