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US Supreme Court Justice Alito Under Scrutiny Over A Trump-Loving Flag Spotted at His Home

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WASHINGTON DC, USA — An upside-down American flag, a symbol adopted by some supporters of former US President Donald Trump contesting the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, was seen outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito after the election, The New York Times reported last Thursday.

This revelation is likely to spark calls for Justice Alito, a member of the court’s conservative wing, to recuse himself from several high-profile cases currently before the court.

These cases involve issues related to the 2020 election and the subsequent attack on the U.S. Capitol, including whether Trump can claim immunity from federal election subversion charges.

The New York Times published a photo of the inverted flag, which it reported was seen at the justice’s Alexandria, Virginia, residence on January 17, 2021.

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Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. and an upside-down flag that was flown in his yard. | Erin Schaff/The New York Times

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN, which has not independently verified the use of the flag.

“I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag,” Alito said in an emailed statement to the Times. “It was briefly placed by Mrs Alito in response to a neighbour’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.”

In the weeks and months following the election, the upside-down flag became a symbol of the “Stop the Steal” movement, in which Trump’s supporters falsely claimed that Biden’s victory was illegitimate due to widespread fraud.

The inverted flag was prominently displayed during the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Times reported it was unclear how long the flag flew outside of Alito’s home.

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An upside-down American flag during SCOTUS protest. Protestors gather after SCOTUS over turned Roe v. Wade. Hundreds of protesters took to the street to protest against he Court’s decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case, which overturned the landmark 50-year-old Roe v. Wade case, removing a federal right to an abortion. | Ty O’Neil/ Sopa Images/Lightrocket via Getty

This story is likely to intensify scrutiny of the high court, which is already under considerable pressure. Justice Clarence Thomas has faced significant criticism and calls for recusal in election-related cases after his wife, conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, admitted to attending Trump’s rally before the Capitol attack and supporting efforts to discredit the election results.

Justice Thomas recently accused his critics of “nastiness” and “lies” during remarks at a judicial conference in Alabama.

Last fall, in response to revelations about travel accepted by Justices Thomas and Alito, the Supreme Court adopted a code of conduct for the first time. This code guides the justices to “refrain from political activity.”

“Two scenarios are plausible and neither one of them is attractive: Either the gesture was trivial pettiness and ought to be beneath the dignity of the court, or it was intended as meaningful symbolism, in which case it is a real problem,” said James Sample, a Hofstra Law School professor who has studied judicial ethics.

Combined with the earlier Thomas revelations, Sample said, “The scenarios amplify the need for Congress to impose meaningful ethics enforcement on a court that steadfastly refuses to police itself.”

GOP Senators Criticise Justice Alito Over Upside-Down Flag Controversy

WASHINGTON DC, USA  — Key Republican senators have sharply criticized Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito after news reports showed an upside-down American flag – a symbol used by some supporters of former President Donald Trump who challenged the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory – flying outside his home in 2021.

Such criticism of a conservative justice from high-ranking GOP senators is extremely rare and a sign of how unusual the controversy is.

In a brief interview with CNN on Wednesday, May 22, 2024, Senate Republican Whip John Thune, one of the contenders vying to replace retiring Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, called the flag a “bad decision.”

“I don’t know how you explain that,” Thune said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that it was a “mistake” for Alito to have an American flag hanging upside down at his home.

“It creates a bad image,” Graham told CNN’s Manu Raju. “It created a situation that we’re all talking about. So, yeah, I think it was a mistake.”

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney echoed concerns about the flag. “It’s very unfortunate and we ought to take a look at it,” he said to reporters.

The upside-down flag became a symbol of the “Stop the Steal” movement in the weeks and months following the election, in which Trump’s supporters falsely claimed that Biden’s win was illegitimate due to widespread fraud. The inverted flag was widely seen during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

The New York Times published a photo of the inverted flag, which it said was seen at the justice’s home in Alexandria, Virginia, on January 17, 2021.

“I had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag,” Alito said in an emailed statement to the Times. “It was briefly placed by Mrs. Alito in response to a neighbor’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs.”

Many Republicans who spoke to CNN, however, defended Alito or downplayed the matter. Even some who questioned his judgment over the incident still defended his role on the court.

“There’s always accusations made about, you know, members of this court, and the left has tried very hard to discredit them,” Thune said. “This is a court that’s looking at the law in the Constitution and interpreting it as they should.”

“I don’t think he should be recused,” Graham told Raju.

Many Republicans vehemently argued against calls for Alito to recuse himself from Trump- and election-related cases. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee who is running to be GOP leader, said, “there are more important things to worry about.”

Cornyn described the focus on the upside-down flag as “continued harassment” against Alito.

“Ever since Clarence Thomas experienced what he called the high-tech lynching, I think we’ve seen repeated efforts to try to undermine the credibility of the Supreme Court. And this is just the latest episode,” Cornyn added.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, also a member of the Judiciary Committee, said news of the flag is the “latest attempt by the left to attack and question the Supreme Court.” He said calls by Democrats for Alito to recuse himself from some cases involving Trump is “an idiotic thing to think that has nothing to do with what’s going on.”

GOP Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said, “This is America and Mrs. Alito is entitled to her opinion, but I don’t see any proof whatsoever that Justice Alito had anything to do with it.”

Kennedy also weighed in on the role and obligations of Supreme Court spouses. “Should they be discreet and judicious in the way they articulate their point of view? Sure. But they don’t have to be,” Kennedy said.

Another GOP senator seemed to downplay the issue as a dispute between neighbours. “It sounded like some kind of neighbourhood thing. I don’t really have a comment on it,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican from West Virginia.

The controversy underscores the delicate balance Supreme Court justices must maintain between their private lives and their public roles, particularly in a politically polarized climate.

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