Trump Meets With Hard-Right Group Led by Ginni Thomas

WASHINGTON — President Trump met last week with a delegation of hard-right activists led by 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, who is perhaps the most conservative member of the Supreme Court.

She 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 the midterm elections.

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

About a half-dozen White House aides were in the Roosevelt Room last Thursday for the meeting, which 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 Mr. Cruz 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, she 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 woman in the group argued that women should not serve in the military because they do not have the physical capacity that men do, according to the people familiar with the events.

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.