Report says second flag flown outside home of Justice Alito by Jan. 6 rioters

According to a report from The New York Times on Wednesday, a second flag similar to the ones carried by rioters during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was found displayed outside the house owned by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Outside Alito’s beach vacation home last summer, an “Appeal to Heaven” flag fluttered in the breeze, making its presence known. It was a symbol that resonated with some, but also drew attention and raised eyebrows. Similarly, an inverted American flag, another emblem that had been carried by rioters during the violent attack on the Capitol, was spotted at Alito’s residence outside Washington just a short time after the chaotic events unfolded. These sightings, whether intentional or coincidental, served as a visual reminder of the deep divisions and tensions that have gripped the nation.

Last week, the news of the upside-down American flag created a wave of controversy. High-ranking Democrats even went so far as to call for Alito’s recusal from cases involving former President Donald Trump.

Justice Alito and the Supreme Court refrained from providing any comments regarding the presence and meaning of the “Appeal to Heaven” flag. Alito mentioned in the past that his wife had flown the inverted American flag during a disagreement with their neighbors, emphasizing that he had no involvement in the matter.

According to photographs obtained by the Times, the Alito beach home in New Jersey was seen flying a white flag with a green pine tree. The images, taken on various dates in July and September 2023, did not specify the duration or the amount of time Alito spent there.

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The flag has a long history, dating back to the Revolutionary War. However, in recent times, it has become closely linked to Christian nationalism and the show of support for Trump. During the Capitol riots, the flag was carried by individuals who were motivated by Trump’s “Stop the Steal” movement, which was fueled by unfounded allegations of election fraud.

Republicans in Congress and state officials have also shown support for the flag. House Speaker Mike Johnson proudly displayed it at his office last autumn, shortly after assuming his position. According to a spokesman, the speaker values the flag for its significant historical background and received it as a gift from a pastor who served as a guest chaplain for the House.

Justice Alito is currently involved in two ongoing Supreme Court cases related to the events of January 6th. These cases involve the question of whether former President Trump has immunity from prosecution for his actions to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and whether a particular obstruction charge can be applied to the rioters. Additionally, Justice Alito joined the court’s unanimous decision that states cannot prevent Trump from appearing on the ballot by invoking the “insurrection clause” that was added to the Constitution after the Civil War.

Calls for Alito to recuse himself from Trump-related cases have intensified following the news of the second flag. Noah Bookbinder, the president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, stated that Alito’s impartiality can and should be questioned, making it difficult to argue for his continued involvement in cases concerning the 2020 election or the insurrection he seemingly supported. Bookbinder’s organization had previously represented Colorado voters in a case seeking to prevent Trump’s inclusion on the ballot due to the “insurrection clause.”

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Alito has not shown any indication that he would recuse himself from the cases.

Clarence Thomas, another conservative justice, has chosen to disregard the demands for his recusal from cases pertaining to the 2020 election. This decision stems from his wife, Virginia Thomas, and her active support for endeavors seeking to overturn Donald Trump’s defeat to President Joe Biden.

Public confidence in the Supreme Court, on the other hand, has reached its lowest level in at least half a century.

Judicial ethics codes emphasize the importance of judges maintaining their independence and refraining from making political statements or expressing opinions on issues that they may have to rule upon. Until November 2023, the Supreme Court did not have its own code of ethics, but it finally adopted one due to ongoing criticism regarding justices accepting undisclosed trips and gifts from wealthy donors. However, it is worth noting that the code does not include any mechanisms for enforcement.

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