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News outlets revealed text messages that Ginni Thomas, a conservative activist and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, sent Mark Meadows shortly after the 2020 election. Meadows, who was White House chief of staff under Trump, turned over the messages along with other documents to the House’s Jan. 6 committee.
The messages show that Thomas pressed Meadows to take action on Trump’s false claims of election fraud. She rehashed many election falsehoods and made references to terminology and beliefs popular with the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The messages included references to an imaginary financial system, an alleged sting operation involving watermarked ballots, and Guantanamo Bay military tribunals.
Virginia Thomas, a conservative activist and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, made a series of false and conspiratorial claims shortly after the 2020 election in text messages to Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, imploring him to press forward in an effort to overturn the election.
The Washington Post and CBS News first obtained copies of the text messages written by Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and reported on their contents March 24 after confirming them with five unnamed people who had seen them. Major media outlets have since corroborated the texts; CNN said it reviewed the messages, and the New York Times, NBC News and ABC News confirmed their authenticity through other unnamed sources.
The Jan. 6 House committee has not released the texts. Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger III, confirmed the existence of the messages to the Washington Post. While PolitiFact has not seen the texts or heard back from Thomas or Terwilliger, we do not doubt that the messages are authentic.
The 29 messages between Thomas and Meadows were among more than 2,000 texts Meadows turned over to the committee as part of its fact-finding mission regarding the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack. What stood out to us were several messages from Thomas that repeated code language for conspiracy theories as she urged Meadows to reject the election results.
Thomas has been affiliated with several conservative groups, including the Council for National Policy, which sought to keep Trump in power. She told the Washington Free Beacon in March that she attended the Jan. 6 rally that Trump held shortly before the attack on the Capitol, but that she left early.
The messages highlighted in early news reports show Thomas rehashing false claims from Trump and his allies that the election was stolen or rigged. They also echoed QAnon, the sprawling and baseless conspiracy theory centered around the belief that a secret cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, including many top Democrats and celebrities, is operating a global sex-trafficking ring that Trump was recruited to take down. The messages included references to "watermarked ballots," "white hats," Guantanamo Bay tribunals and other staples of QAnon lore.
Here’s our fact-checking guide to the texts.
What Thomas wrote:
"Watermarked ballots in over 12 states have been part of a huge Trump & military white hat sting operation in 12 key battleground states."
Thomas sent Meadows a link to a YouTube video on Nov. 5, 2020, called, "TRUMP STING w CIA Director Steve Pieczenik, The Biggest Election Story in History, QFS-BLOCKCHAIN." The video is no longer on YouTube.
Pieczenik, a former State Department official, is a far-right commentator who has appeared often on Alex Jones’ InfoWars channel, and who has joined Jones in referring to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., as a "false flag."
In the world of conspiracy theories, QFS stands for "Quantum Financial System."
The imaginary QFS financial system is rooted in older conspiracy theories that said a sweeping 1980s proposal to reform the U.S. economy was secretly passed into law and kept under wraps by the government, but would one day come into effect, wrote researcher Mike Rothschild in his book about QAnon.
"The gist is that at some point, all currencies will be ‘revalued’ to have the same exchange rate (possibly pegged to gold or the dollar), taxes and debt will be wiped away, and anyone holding vast amounts of low-value currency like the Iraqi dinar or the Vietnamese dong will instantly be wealthy," Rothschild told PolitiFact in an email. "It's absolute nonsense."
In it, Pieczenik used the term QFS to describe "a sting operation" initiated by Trump in which every ballot was "watermarked" with a "QFS blockchain" encryption code and National Guard soldiers were deployed to 12 different states. Snopes rated the video’s claims False.
PolitiFact debunked a viral Facebook post that was highlighted in the video, rating the posts’s claim about "watermarked" ballots Pants on Fire. There was no evidence of such an elaborate plot to catch any alleged cheating by Democrats. The federal government does not print or issue ballots.
The watermarked ballots claim was popular among QAnon adherents, with "watch the water" becoming a go-to refrain on QAnon message boards. "White hats" is also used in QAnon lingo to refer to those in the military and government who were allied with their cause.
A man held a sign related to the QAnon conspiracy theory outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
What Thomas wrote:
"Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators (elected officials, bureaucrats, social media censorship mongers, fake stream media reporters, etc) are being arrested & detained for ballot fraud right now & over coming days, & will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition."
Thomas’ claim that public figures in politics, government, tech and the media were being rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo Bay for military tribunals "is the essence of QAnon," Rothschild said. Vice reported that Thomas’ text "directly quoted a passage floating around on QAnon message boards."
Many of the earliest posts from "Q," the anonymous poster who claimed to be a military insider and whose writings on fringe internet forums inspired the movement, talked of expanding Gitmo and referenced mass arrests of Democrats, celebrities and banking elites, Rothschild said.
Many adherents of QAnon have long believed that Trump’s efforts would culminate in a mass unsealing of indictments called "the storm."
"Q" has not posted a message since December 2020, but baseless internet rumors describing military arrests and Guantanamo Bay executions of top Democrats have lived on courtesy of influencers and websites that push the QAnon theories, such as Real Raw News.
What Thomas wrote:
"The majority knows Biden and the Left is attempting the greatest Heist of our History."
This is false; there was no "heist."
Biden won the presidency by amassing the necessary Electoral College votes through flipping battleground states that went for Trump in 2016.
On Nov. 7, 2020, the Associated Press reported that Biden won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes, reaching the combined 270 electoral votes across multiple states to win the presidency.
A scheme to steal the election for Biden would have required election workers in thousands of cities and counties to coordinate a massive fraud, risking felony charges and prison time. By the date of Thomas’ text, Nov. 10, 2020, judges in multiple states had rejected lawsuits filed on Trump’s behalf that challenged vote counting procedures.
What Thomas said:
"Sounds like Sidney and her team are getting inundated with evidence of fraud. Make a plan. Release the Kraken and save us from the left taking America down."
Thomas was referring to lawyer Sidney Powell, who falsely claimed Trump won the election in a landslide and regularly shared content related to QAnon, in this Nov. 19, 2020, text.
Powell was part of the unsuccessful effort to file lawsuits in battleground states that Trump lost. In a series of discredited allegations that later triggered expensive defamation lawsuits, she also accused voting technology companies of changing election results.
The phrase "release the Kraken" comes from the 1981 movie "Clash of the Titans," but Powell and others adopted the phrase after the 2020 election to refer to the false allegations of election fraud that she claimed would invalidate Biden’s election.
In a 2021 court filing defending her against one of the defamation lawsuits, Powell’s attorneys wrote that "no reasonable person" would conclude that her claims were statements of fact.
The Washington Post, "Virginia Thomas urged White House chief to pursue unrelenting efforts to overturn the 2020 election, texts show," March 24, 2022
Mike Rothschild, "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became A Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything," accessed March 25, 2022
The New York Times, "Ginni Thomas Pressed Trump’s Chief of Staff to Overturn 2020 Vote, Texts Show," March 24, 2022
NBC News, "Jan. 6 panel has text messages between Ginni Thomas and Mark Meadows about keeping Trump in office," March 25, 2022
ABC News, "Ginni Thomas urged White House chief of staff to challenge election results, text messages show," March 25, 202
VICE, "Ginni Thomas Is a Total QAnon Fangirl, She Revealed in Texts to Mark Meadows," March 25, 2022
The Washington Free Beacon, "EXCLUSIVE: Ginni Thomas Wants To Set the Record Straight on January 6," March 14, 2022
The New York Times, "The Long Crusade of Clarence and Ginni Thomas," Feb. 22, 2022
Politico, "Federal judge imposes sanctions on Sidney Powell, Lin Wood and other pro-Trump lawyers," Aug. 25, 2021
The New York Times, "‘Release the Kraken,’ a catchphrase for unfounded conspiracy theory, trends on Twitter," Nov. 17, 2020
Associated Press, "Native son Joe Biden takes Pennsylvania and the presidency," Nov. 7, 2020
Anti-Defamation League, "QAnon," accessed March 25, 2022
Will Sommer on Twitter, March 24, 2022
PolitiFact, "Hangings, guillotines and Gitmo: Going behind Real Raw News’ sensational (and fabricated) headlines," Sept. 24, 2021
PolitiFact, "No proof for pro-Trump conspiracy theory of secret watermarks on Ariz. ballots," May 4, 2021
PolitiFact, "Trump lawyer falsely claims voting technology companies were created for changing election results," Nov. 19, 2020
PolitiFact, "Hillary Clinton correct that Austin's Alex Jones said no one died at Sandy Hook Elementary," Sept. 1, 2016
Email interview with Mike Rothschild, author of "The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became A Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything," March 25, 2022