WASHINGTON — Buried in the thousands of documents that Mark Meadows, former President Donald J. Trump’s final White House chief of staff, turned over late last year to the House committee examining the Jan. 6 attack were text messages that presented the panel with a political land mine: what to do about Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.
The messages showed that Ms. Thomas relentlessly urged Mr. Meadows to overturn the 2020 presidential election, which she called a “heist,” and indicated that she reached out to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, about Mr. Trump’s legal efforts to keep power. She even suggested the lawyer who should be put in charge of that effort.
The public disclosure of the messages on Thursday focused new attention on one avenue of the investigation and risked creating a rare rift within the committee about how aggressively to pursue it, including whether to seek testimony from Ms. Thomas, who goes by Ginni.
In the Thomases, the committee is up against a couple that has deep networks of support across the conservative movement and Washington, including inside the committee. The panel’s Republican vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, has led the charge in holding Mr. Trump to account for his efforts to overturn the election, but has wanted to avoid any aggressive effort that, in her view, could unfairly target Justice Thomas, the senior member of the Supreme Court.
So although a debate has broken out inside the committee about summoning Ms. Thomas to testify, the panel at this point has no plans to do so, leaving some Democrats frustrated. That could change, however: On Friday, despite the potential for political backlash, Ms. Cheney indicated she has no objection to the panel asking Ms. Thomas for a voluntary interview.
A New York Times Magazine investigation last month examined the political and personal history of Ms. Thomas and her husband. That included her role in efforts to overturn the election from her perch on the nine-member board of CNP Action, a conservative group that helped advance the “Stop the Steal” movement, and in mediating between feuding factions of organizers “so that there wouldn’t be any division around Jan. 6,” as one organizer put it.
During that period, the Supreme Court was considering a number of cases related to the election, with Justice Thomas taking positions at times sympathetic to Mr. Trump’s efforts to challenge the outcome.
This month, Ms. Thomas acknowledged attending the rally …….