Alito rejects calls to drop SCOTUS cases over Trump and January 6

WASHINGTON — Justice Samuel Alito is rejecting calls to step down from Supreme Court cases involving former President Donald Trump and Jan. 6 defendants. He says his wife raised the two controversial flags flying over their homes.

“My wife loves waving flags. That’s not me,” Alito wrote on Wednesday.

In letters to members of Congress, Alito said his wife, Martha-Ann, was responsible for flying both an upside-down flag over their home in 2021 and an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at their New Jersey beach house last year. Both flags resembled those carried by rioters who violently stormed the Capitol in January 2021, while echoing Trump’s false claims of election fraud.

Neither incident at Alito’s home merited his dismissal, wrote the judge, who has rejected calls from Democrats in the past to recuse himself on other issues.

“I am satisfied that a reasonable person not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to influence the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that the events … do not meet the applicable standard for denial” , he wrote. “I am therefore forced to deny your request.”

Supreme Court justices decide for themselves whether to postpone a case, and the only possible consequence of refusing to step aside is impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal from office by the Senate. That has never happened in American history.

Trump, who was in New York as jurors deliberated on his hush-money criminal trial, congratulated Alito for “showing the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE and ‘COURAGE’” by refusing to step aside. “All American judges, judges and leaders should have such a GRIT,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Some Senate Republicans also quickly took to social media Wednesday to praise Alito for his involvement in the cases.

The court is considering two key issues related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, including the charges the rioters face and whether Trump has immunity from prosecution on election interference charges .

The New York Times reported that an upside-down American flag was seen at Alito’s home in Alexandria, Virginia, less than two weeks after the attack on the Capitol. The newspaper also reported that an “Appeal to Heaven” flag was flown outside the judge’s beach house in New Jersey last summer.

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag has become a symbol in recent years of sympathy for the Christian nationalist movement and of the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. According to, the pine tree on the flag symbolized strength and resilience in the New England colonies, while the words “Appeal to Heaven” came from the belief that God would deliver the colonists from tyranny.

An upside-down American flag has become a symbol associated with Trump’s false fraud claims. Dozens of pro-Trump rioters carried similar inverted flags and chanted slogans such as “Stop the Steal” on Jan. 6, 2021. The U.S. Flag Code states that the U.S. flag may not be flown upside down “except as a signal of grave distress in cases of extreme danger to life or property.” The inverted flag has been used as a symbol of protest on a range of issues in recent decades by both the left and the right.

Alito said he was unaware the inverted flag was flying over his home until it was brought to his attention. “As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days she refused,” he wrote in nearly identical letters to Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

He had previously explained to the newspaper that his wife had raised the flag as part of a nasty neighborhood dispute.

The flag at his beach house was also raised by his wife, Alito wrote, noting that the house is in her name and was purchased with money she inherited from her parents.

Alito said he was not familiar with the “Appeal to Heaven” flag when it was raised, but noted that it dates back to the American Revolution. “I was not aware of any connection between this historic flag and the ‘Stop the Steal Movement,’ and neither was my wife,” Alito wrote.

He said Martha-Ann Alito did not fly that flag to associate with the rioters or the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which Trump, a Republican, lost to Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Calling her an independent-minded citizen, Alito wrote: “She makes her own decisions and I honor her right to do so.”

Alito also described the sacrifices his wife has made because of her husband’s service on the Supreme Court, including “the insult of having to endure numerous, loud, obscene and personally offensive protests in front of our home that continue to this day and now threaten to escalate.”

The protests began in 2022 after a draft of Alito’s majority opinion was leaked in early May, overturning Roe v. Wade and allowing states to ban abortions. The court formally announced the ruling at the end of June.

Democrats in the House of Representatives and the Senate sent a total of three letters to Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts last week, requesting that Alito be excluded from the cases. Senators requested a meeting with Roberts.

Alito said it was better if he responded immediately.

Legal codes of ethics focus on the need for judges to be independent, avoiding political statements or opinions on matters they could decide. The Supreme Court has long been without its own code of ethics, but adopted one in November 2023 despite continued criticism over secret trips and gifts from wealthy benefactors to some judges.

However, the code lacks an enforcement tool, and the Senate Judiciary Committee last year approved legislation that would set stricter standards. But Republicans are firmly opposed to any attempt to tell the court what to do.

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