Alito tells congressional Democrats he won’t recuse himself over flags

Justice Samuel Alito categorically rejects calls to recuse himself two cases before the Supreme Court former President Donald Trump due to his involvement two flags who flew in front of his house.

In letters to House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday, Alito said he had nothing to do with the display of the flags and that nothing in the incidents merited recusal under the Supreme Court ruling . code of Conduct. Furthermore, he said, neither he nor his wife knew the meaning now attributed to the flags.

“A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or by a desire to influence the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standards for recusal,” wrote Alito in letters to Democrats. “I therefore have the duty to reject your request for recusal.”

Democrats seized on reports from the New York Times that an upside-down American flag was flying in front of the Alitos’ Virginia home and that another “Call to Heaven” flag was flying in front of his vacation home. They argued that the two incidents created an appearance of impropriety that required Alito to recuse himself from any matters related to the January affair. 6 Capitol riot or 2020 election.

But since 2021, Alito, who was nominated to the Supreme Court by President George W. Bush, has consistently said he had nothing to do with flying a flag, which he said was solely the his wife’s interest. He emphasized this point in his two letters.

On the upside-down American flag that flew briefly outside her Virginia home in 2021, he said in the letters that he asked her to take it down, and she eventually agreed to do so.

“My wife’s reasons for flying the flag are irrelevant to this project,” he wrote, “but I know she was very upset at the time, largely because of a very nasty neighborhood dispute in which I was not involved. »

Alito wrote that a house on the street displayed a sign personally attacking his wife and that a man who lived there at the time followed her down the street and “reprimanded her in my presence using foul language , including what I consider to be the vilest epithet imaginable.” be addressed to a woman. »

“My wife is a private citizen and she has the same First Amendment rights as every other American,” Alito continued. “She makes her own decisions and I have always respected her right to do so.”

This is consistent with the Alitos’ position dating back to 2021, when they were confronted as they left their home by a Washington Post reporter who had been tipped off three years ago by a neighbor about the flag at towards.

When the reporter asked about the flag, the Post said Martha-Ann Alito shouted, “It’s an international distress signal!” »

The Post detailed the incident in an article Saturday, explaining why it decided not to publish the story in 2021.

“The judge denied that the flag was hung upside down as a political protest, saying it came from a neighborhood dispute and indicating that his wife had waved it,” the Post reported.

The Post then described the reporter’s 2021 encounter with the Alitos outside their home, claiming that Martha-Ann Alito told the reporter, in apparent reference to the neighbors: “Ask them what they did!

The Post reporter then observed Martha-Ann Alito get out of the car “and then carry a fancy flag, the type that usually decorates a yard, out of their residence.” She hoisted it up the flagpole. ” There ! It’s better ? she screamed.”

This 2021 reporting is consistent with the most recent New York Times article from Tuesday detailing the neighborhood conflict. The Post said it did not publish the article because it was about an ongoing neighborhood dispute with Matha-Ann Alito that did not involve the law.

“My wife and I jointly own our home in Virginia, so she has the legal right to use the property as she sees fit, and there is no additional action I could have taken to have the flag removed more quickly” , Alito wrote in the letters.

On the “Call to Heaven” flag, Alito said it was also flown by Martha-Ann Alito. He said he had nothing to do with it and neither of them saw any other meanings in the flags.

He also said she did not fly the plane to associate with “Stop the Steal” or any other group.

“As I said in reference to the other flag event, my wife is an independent-minded private citizen,” Alito wrote. “She makes her own decisions, and I honor her right to do so. Our vacation home was purchased with money she inherited from her parents and named after her. It’s a place, far from Washington , where she should be able to relax.”

House and Senate Democrats said his wife was responsible for the flagpoles installed at their Virginia home and New Jersey vacation home, and said she had flown a variety of flags in the past , including patriotic flags, university flags, sports support flags. The teams, the flags of the places they visited and the religious flags.

“My wife loves flying flags,” Alito wrote. “I’m not.”

He said Martha-Ann Alito may have mentioned that the “Call to Heaven” flag dates back to the American Revolution, but he assumed it was flown to express a “religious and patriotic message.”

“She did not fly it to associate with this or any other group, and the use of an old, historic flag by a new group does not necessarily empty that flag of any other meaning,” wrote Alito.

One of the letters was addressed to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin and subcommittee head Sheldon Whitehouse, who I asked for a meeting with Chief Justice John Roberts and urged him to take steps to ensure Alito recuses himself from pending Supreme Court cases involving Trump’s claim of presidential immunity and the January trial. 6 attack.

The second letter was sent to a group of House Democrats who demanded that Alito step aside in the cases.

Last year, in response to a similar request to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the the chief justice said Due to concerns over the separation of powers, it would be inappropriate for him to appear to discuss ethics or other issues that might come before the court.

A meeting with members of a single party to discuss issues that may be related to cases pending before the court would be unprecedented for a chief justice.

Melissa Quinn contributed to this report

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