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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his wife Martha-Ann stand during a private ceremony for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court, on September 23, 202... WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 23: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his wife Martha-Ann stand during a private ceremony for Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the U.S. Supreme Court, on September 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. Ginsburg, who was appointed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton served on the high court from 1993, until her death on September 18, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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The basis for Justice Samuel Alito’s rejection of congressional Democrats’ request that he recuse himself from Supreme Court cases tied to Jan. 6 was literally a meme.

In an at-times extremely detailed, two-and-a-half page letter to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Alito explained why he believes flags flying at two of his properties — an upside down American flag at his Virginia home and a flag that’s been embraced by Christian nationalists at his New Jersey beach house — are neither ethics violations nor cause to recuse himself from cases related to the Jan. 6 coup attempt.

That’s because, Alito wrote, he was not aware that an upside flag that’s become associated with the “Stop the Steal” movement was flying at his house in the weeks after the Jan. 6 attack — until it was brought to his attention.

Alito claimed that he asked his wife to take the “Stop the Steal” flag down as soon as he learned it was flying, but she refused to take it down for several days. His rationale for why the incident does not raise any questions about his ability to be impartial on cases related to Jan. 6? Because his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, is a property owner and also a human woman allowed to have opinions.

“My wife and I own our Virginia home jointly. She therefore has the legal right to use the property as she sees fit, and there were no additional steps that I could have taken to have the flag taken down more promptly,” he wrote, before unpacking the same “very nasty neighborhood dispute” he cited to the press when the upside-down flag’s flying was first reported.

And when it comes to the “An Appeal to Heaven” flag that was seen on display on the Jersey shore last summer, well, Martha-Ann Alito is the sole owner of that property. And, god forbid, the woman really likes flags.

“My wife is fond of flying flags,” the justice wrote. “I am not. She was solely responsible for having flagpoles put up at our residence and our vacation home and has flown a wide variety of flags over the years.”

While Alito used his wife’s ability to have opinions and fly stuff on her own property, regardless of its ties to cases appearing before the high court, as a flimsy justification for his recusal refusal, he did not address why his wife has insurrection flags or how she knows about these symbols to begin with. Rather, he hid behind an at best clueless defense: those flags also have other meanings.

Per Alito:

I was not familiar with the ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag when my wife flew it. She may have mentioned that it dates back to the American Revolution, and I assumed she was flying it to express a religious and patriotic message. I was not aware of any connection between that historic flag and the ‘Stop the Steal Movement,’ and neither was my wife. She did not fly it to associate herself with that or any other group, and the use of an old historic flag by a new group does not necessarily drain that flag of all other meanings.

The author of the Dobbs decision stripping women of reproductive rights has emerged as a surprising advocate for a woman’s right to choose an insurrectionist flag.

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