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Samuel Alito has decided that Samuel Alito is sufficiently impartial

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s Reason of the Supreme Court to skip Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021, was presented by the court’s spokeswoman: Several justices, presumably including Alito, “chose not to attend the inauguration ceremony in light of the risks to public health due to the COVID pandemic.”

So where were Alito and his wife going that same afternoon when Robert Barnes of The Washington Post showed up at their home to ask about an upside-down flag flying outside their home?

This new detail, the exchange between Barnes and the Alitos, emerged this weekend. Barnes wrote The Post’s January 2021 story about the justices not attending the inauguration, including the spokeswoman’s quote. But when he arrived at their home in Northern Virginia, the Alitos came out of their house and got into their car. Martha-Ann Alito, the judge’s wife, asked Barnes to leave their property before being told why he was there.

The flag, she proclaimed, was “an international signal of distress.” Alito, for his part, “denied that the flag was flown upside down as a political protest, said it stemmed from a neighborhood dispute and indicated that his wife had raised the flag,” our recent report explained. This is consistent with what Alito told the New York Times when it sought comment on his original report on the inverted flag.

Flying a flag upside down is actually a symbol of distress. And that was quite common knowledge in January 2021, when the inverted flag had become a symbol of opposition to Biden’s incoming presidency and was carried by some who witnessed the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.

A second report from the Times detailed the dispute with those neighbors. After the riot at the Capitol, reporter Jodi Kantor revealed, a house down the street from the Alitos hung homemade lawn signs that read “Trump is a fascist” and “You are complicit.” The latter was not aimed at the Alitos, neighbor Emily Baden told Kantor, but at Republicans in general.

Maybe. But the street where both houses are located is a dead end street, with the house from Baden closer to the entrance. To get to their house, several houses away, the Alitos had had to drive by. You can see how the Alitos felt targeted.

But this raises another problem. If the flag was intended as a retort to the Badens, it would be ineffective as there would be no reason for the Badens to continue driving down their cul-de-sac. Emily Baden even told Kantor that she had never seen the flag at all.

On Wednesday, Alito sent a letter to Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asserting that he did not see fit to recuse himself from decisions related to Donald Trump’s efforts to retain power after losing the 2020 election. election.

“I am confident,” he wrote, “that a reasonable person not motivated by political or ideological considerations or by a desire to influence the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that the events mentioned above do not meet the applicable standard for denial. ”

Those recounted events focused on the flag – for which he gave no direct explanation.

“My wife’s reasons for flying the flag are not relevant for present purposes,” he wrote in the letter, “but I note that she was very upset at the time, largely due to a very nasty neighborhood dispute in which I had no involvement.” He wrote that the dispute involved, among other things, a man who used “the meanest epithet that can be addressed to a woman” when addressing his wife.

The Times reports that this exchange did not take place before the inauguration — which explains why the flag was seen outside his home at that time — but instead in mid-February. This version of events, told by Emily Baden, was confirmed by a phone call she placed to the police.

However, according to that report, there had been more than one meeting with the Badens before Barnes’ arrival. One of these was the day after the Capitol riot, on January 7 – ten days before the flag was photographed outside the Alito household. The Alitos and Badens also faced off sometime on Jan. 20 before Barnes’ visit — a meeting that would have been at the top of the agenda when Barnes asked Alito if the flag had any political significance.

In his letter, Alito again emphasized that he had nothing to do with the flag.

“I wasn’t even aware of the inverted flag until it was brought to my attention. As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to remove it, but for several days she refused,” he wrote. He described this effort in strikingly legalistic terms: Because she is a co-owner of the house, he continued, his wife “therefore has the legal right to use the property as she sees fit, and there were no additional steps that I could have taken. to get the flag taken down faster.”

This is a striking claim: that he apparently thought the flag should be taken down, but that his efforts to make that happen were stymied by Martha-Ann Alito’s property rights. You will also note that his letter does not suggest that the flag was a response to the Badens, but instead that it happened to fly at a time when his wife was “very distressed” by her neighbors.

The reason the flag flew is “irrelevant for present purposes,” he claims — although the purpose of the letter was to establish that the flag was not indicative of his views on Trump’s efforts to retain power.

What we’re left with is that Alito didn’t raise the flag, but he didn’t do much to take it down either. It flew just days after an encounter with their neighbor, although not the encounters that involved the most vitriol. And if it was intended as a signal to those neighbors, it was one they almost certainly wouldn’t have seen.

We also know that Alito’s concern about the coronavirus was too great to allow him to attend Biden’s inauguration, but not great enough to keep him at home when The Post’s reporter showed up that day. And we know that, in Alito’s view, none of this should cause any objective observer to question his views of the former or current president.

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