US Supreme Court’s Samuel Alito under fire over inverted American flag – a symbol linked to Donald Trump

US Supreme Court’s Samuel Alito under fire over inverted American flag – a symbol linked to Donald Trump

A US Supreme Court justice faced calls on Friday to recuse himself from cases involving Donald Trump after an inverted American flag – a symbol of the former US president’s false election fraud claims – was flown outside his home.

A January 2021 photograph of the upside-down flag outside the Alexandria, Virginia house of arch-conservative Justice Samuel Alito was published by The New York Times on Thursday.

The report has intensified scrutiny of the conservative-dominated nation’s highest court as it prepares to rule on the scope of the former president’s immunity from prosecution.

In a statement to the newspaper, the 74-year-old Alito said he “had no involvement whatsoever in the flying of the flag”, which was displayed in the weeks following the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters.

Alito, who was appointed by former Republican US president George W. Bush, said the flag was “briefly” flown by his wife “in response to a neighbour’s use of objectionable and personally insulting language on yard signs”.

Crowds gather as US President Donald Trump speaks to supporters near the White House on January 6, 2021. Photo: AFP

Another staunch conservative justice, Clarence Thomas, has also been the target of recusal demands because of his wife’s involvement with efforts to block Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

Thomas, 75, the longest-serving justice on the court, has refused to step aside from Trump-related cases and recently described the nation’s capital as an “awful place” full of “nastiness” and “lies”.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Alito should “recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection”.

“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 court is in an ethical crisis of its own making, and Justice Alito and the rest of the court should be doing everything in their power to regain public trust,” Durbin said.

“Supreme Court justices should be held to the highest ethical standards, not the lowest.”



US House impeaches Trump for inciting deadly Capitol attack

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Another Democratic senator, Richard Blumenthal of New Jersey, told MSNBC the flag report left him “beyond disturbed”.

Blumenthal said Chief Justice John Roberts “has to tell these two justices that they have no business sitting on” Trump cases.

Asked about the Alito controversy, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “we should be respecting that flag”.

“I cannot speak to if he should recuse himself,” Jean-Pierre added. “That is for the court to decide.”

The Supreme Court heard Trump’s claim on April 25 that as a former president, he is immune from criminal prosecution.

Trump had been scheduled to go on trial in Washington on March 4 on charges of seeking to overturn the 2020 election, but the case has been on hold pending a ruling by the Supreme Court on the immunity question.

A ruling is expected by the end of June or early July but it is unlikely a trial can take place before November, when the 77-year-old Trump is expected to take on the 81-year-old Biden in a rematch of their 2020 White House race.

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas poses for a photo at the US Supreme Court building in October 2022. Photo: AP

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

The nine members of the court, three of whom were appointed by Trump, are the only federal judges not explicitly subject to ethical oversight, and pressure had been mounting from Senate Democrats for them to accept a set of standards.

The nine-page Code of Conduct, which was signed by all of the justices, requires them to “uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary” and “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities”.

Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president, confirmed by the Senate, and serve for life.

The court’s popularity is near historic lows, with a recent Gallup poll finding that only 41 per cent of Americans approve of the job it is doing.



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