Senators Join House Dems in Call for Alito’s Recusal Amid Latest Flag Controversy

Multiple Senators have joined the chorus of Democrats in Congress calling on Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito to recuse himself from cases relating to the 2020 election and Jan. 6 after a second flag associated with the insurrection was reported at his New Jersey residence.

Most prominently, Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) called for Alito’s recusal and the adoption of a code of ethics for justices amid the fallout from the Supreme Court’s ongoing controversies.

“This incident is yet another example of apparent ethical misconduct by a sitting justice, and it adds to the Court’s ongoing ethical crisis,” Durbin said in a statement. “For the good of our country and the Court, Justice Alito must recuse himself immediately from cases related to the 2020 election and the January 6th insurrection.”

Durbin reiterated his comments on X/Twitter with a screenshot of the New York Times story that broke the news of Alito’s beach home flying the “Appeal to Heaven,” also known as the Pine Tree flag, a Revolutionary War-era flag that has since been co-opted by far-right Christian nationalists and members of the “Stop the Steal” movement. The flag was a common sight at the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Another Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D–Conn.), called for Alito’s recusal on Wednesday. Blumenthal appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes on Wednesday to speak on the matter. Blumenthal compared Alito’s display of the flag to House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-L.A.), who has the flag displayed outside his office in Congress.

“Supreme Court justices are supposed to be above reproach and above politics, and I am sad, really sad and shocked to say Justice Alito is rapidly showing himself to be unfit to serve on the United States Supreme Court,” Blumenthal said. “At a very minimum, he has to recuse himself from these cases now coming before the court.”

The comments come a day after 45 House Democrats signed a letter to Justice Alito asking him to recuse himself from cases involving the Jan. 6 insurrection, stemming from an earlier flag controversy in which an upside down U.S. flag — another symbol associated with the 2020 election-denying “Stop the Steal” movement — was seen at Alito’s home.

During an oral argument over a Jan. 6 case this term, Alito asked Inspector General Elizabeth Prelogar whether what happened on Jan. 6 — when rioters obstructed the couting of the 2020 electoral college vote — was equivalent to protesters interrupting Supreme Court hearings “for five minutes.”

“I think it’s in a fundamentally different posture,” Prelogar said after a bit of back and forth, “than if they had stormed into this courtroom, overrun the Supreme Court police, required the Justices and other participants to flee for their safety, and done so with clear evidence of intent to obstruct.”

“Yes indeed, absolutely. What happened on January 6th was very, very serious, and I’m not equating this with that,” Alito responded before adding, “But we need to find out what — what are the outer reaches of this statute under your interpretation.”

In another instance, Alito equated Jan. 6 with a pro-Palestine protest in San Francisco.

“Yesterday protestors blocked the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and disrupted traffic in San Francisco,” Alito said. “What if something similar to that happened all around the Capitol so that members — all the bridges from Virginia were blocked, and members from Virginia who needed to appear at a hearing couldn’t get there or were delayed in getting there? Would that be a violation of this provision?”

Alito is not the only Supreme Court justice to come under recent fire. Justice Clarence Thomas has also faced heavy criticism for accepting and failing to disclose luxury gifts from right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow. The revelations of the gifts prompted the Supreme Court to adopt a Code of Ethics in November, though the Court has no enforcement mechanism if justices violate it.

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