Samuel Alito refuses Trump case recusal and blames wife for January 6 flags

Washington DC - A conservative Supreme Court justice on Wednesday rejected calls to recuse himself from cases involving Donald Trump after flags linked to the former president's false election fraud claims were flown outside his home and vacation property.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (l.) has refused to recuse himself from cases involving Donald Trump despite apparent support for the former president.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (l.) has refused to recuse himself from cases involving Donald Trump despite apparent support for the former president.  © Collage: Erin Schaff & Jabin Botsford / POOL / AFP

Justice Samuel Alito, in a letter to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the flags were flown by his wife and did not meet the conditions for recusal in the court's code of conduct.

Alito has been facing recusal calls since The New York Times reported this month that an inverted American flag was flown outside his home in the weeks following the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.

A similarly provocative "Appeal to Heaven" flag featuring a pine tree on a white background was flown outside the Alito vacation home in New Jersey last summer, according to the newspaper.

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Both flags have been associated with Trump's false claims that he won the 2020 election over Democrat Joe Biden.

Alito, in his letter, said he had "nothing whatsoever" to do with the flying of the upside-down American flag outside his Virginia home.

"As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused," he said.

He said his wife flew the flag in response to a neighbor who had "displayed a sign attacking her personally."

As for the flag flown outside their vacation home, Alito said he "had no involvement in the decision to fly that flag," and neither he nor his wife was aware that it was associated with Trump's so-called "Stop the Steal Movement."

"My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not," he said.

"A reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases would conclude that this event does not meet the applicable standard for recusal," he added.

Alito refuses to recuse himself despite clear "appearance of bias"

The "Appeal to Heaven" flag (r.) featuring a pine tree on a white background is associated with the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.
The "Appeal to Heaven" flag (r.) featuring a pine tree on a white background is associated with the January 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters.  © MICHAEL A. MCCOY / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Trump, in a post on Truth Social, praised Alito for "showing the INTELLIGENCE, COURAGE, and 'GUTS' to refuse stepping aside from making a decision on anything January 6th related."

Alito (74), who was nominated by Republican president George W. Bush, is considered one of the most conservative justices on the nine-member court and was the author of the June 2022 opinion overturning the constitutional right to abortion.

Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a number of other Democratic lawmakers had called for Alito to recuse himself from cases involving Trump and the 2020 election.

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"Flying an upside-down American flag – a symbol of the so-called 'Stop the Steal' movement – clearly creates the appearance of bias," Durbin said.

The high court is currently weighing two cases that address January 6, including a Trump claim of presidential immunity in his election interference case. Rulings are due in late June or early July.

Another conservative justice on the court, Clarence Thomas (75), has ignored calls to recuse himself on the grounds that his wife took part in the drive to keep Trump in power even after he lost the election.

The Supreme Court adopted an ethics code in November of last year following a series of scandals over lavish gifts and luxury vacations received by Thomas and Alito, both of whom have denied any impropriety.

Cover photo: Collage: Erin Schaff & Jabin Botsford / POOL / AFP

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