Supreme Court’s Alito rejects calls to recuse from Trump, Jan. 6 cases

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday rejected Democratic lawmakers’ requests that he recuse himself from key cases related to former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot following reports that flags linked to Trump’s supporters were flown at his properties.

Alito said in two letters to the lawmakers that he had “nothing whatsoever to do with the flying of” an upside-down U.S. flag at his Virginia home days before the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Alito also said he had “no involvement” in flying a flag bearing the “Appeal to Heaven” symbol in the backyard of his vacation home in the summer of 2023.

Rather, he said in the letters, his wife was “solely responsible” for putting up the flagpoles and flying “a wide variety of flags over the years.”

“My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not,” Alito wrote.

The answer means the conservative justice remains involved as the court considers Trump’s claim that he is immune from being charged in the federal election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith. Trump argues that he enjoys broad presidential immunity from prosecution, even after leaving office, for official acts he performed as president.

The Supreme Court’s decision on that question, which could further delay or effectively end Smith’s case against the former president, is pending. The court is next scheduled to release opinions on Thursday morning, but it may not rule on Trump’s case until later.

The New York Times first reported earlier in May that the inverted American flag — a symbol used by supporters of Trump’s false claim that Biden’s victory in the 2020 election was rigged — was flown at Alexandria, Virginia, home of the justice and his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, on Jan. 17, 2021.

Soon after, Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urged Alito to step aside from cases related to the 2020 election and the Capitol riot, including Trump’s immunity case.

“Flying an upside-down American flag — a symbol of the so-called ‘Stop the Steal’ movement — clearly creates the appearance of bias,” Durbin wrote.

The senator last week repeated his call for Alito to recuse himself, after the Times reported that the Appeal to Heaven flag was flown at the Alito summer home in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, in July and September 2023.

Both flags were carried by rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Alito wrote in Wednesday’s letters that his wife’s reasons for flying the upside-down U.S. flag “are not relevant for present purposes.”

But he noted that she was “greatly distressed at the time due, in large part, to a very nasty neighborhood dispute in which I had no involvement.”

Alito said that a house on her street displayed a sign “attacking her personally,” and that a male resident of that house “trailed her” down the street and berated her with “foul language, including what I regard as the vilest epithet that can be addressed to a woman.”

Martha-Ann Alito “is a private citizen” who “makes her own decisions,” Alito wrote, adding that she has had to endure “numerous, loud, obscene, and personally insulting protests in front of our home” as a result of his service on the high court.

Those protests “continue to this day and now threaten to escalate,” he wrote.

One of Alito’s letters was addressed to Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. The other was sent to a group of 50 House members, most of whom signed a recent letter alleging an “indisputable appearance of a conflict of interest” requiring Alito’s recusal from the Trump immunity case and another case.

Regarding the Appeal to Heaven flag, Alito said he recalled that his wife flew it “for some period of time” and that he was not familiar with it while it was raised.

“She may have mentioned that it dates back to the American Revolution, and I assumed she was flying it to express a patriotic and religious message,” he wrote.

“I was not aware of any connection between that historic flag and the ‘Stop the Steal Movement,’ and neither was my wife,” Alito wrote.

But he maintained, “She did not fly it to associate herself with that or any other group, and the use of an old historic flag by a new group does not necessarily drain that flag of all other meanings.”

Trump, who is awaiting a verdict in his criminal hush money trial in Manhattan Supreme Court, applauded Alito for declining to remove himself from the case.

“Congratulations to United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito for showing the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE, and ‘GUTS’ to refuse stepping aside from making a decision on anything January 6th related,” Trump wrote in a post on Truth Social.

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