New York Times: Another controversial flag spotted outside an Alito property

CNN —

A flag that was on display during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol was flown outside Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s vacation home in New Jersey, according to a report in the New York Times on Wednesday.

Citing photographs and interviews with neighbors, the Times reports that the “Appeal to Heaven” flag was seen on display at his property last summer. The flag, which has a history dating to the Revolutionary War, has also become a symbol for supporters of former President Donald Trump. The flag is white and includes a green evergreen tree and the words “An Appeal to Heaven” at the top.

Alito and the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin, who has been a frequent critic of conservative justices, told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on Thursday that it “raises a serious question” for someone on the nation’s highest court to fly such flags at his residence and vacation home.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence in this second instance. I think he’s speaking pretty clearly as to his political loyalties, and it’s a shame. When it gets right down to it, our courts and justices don’t have an army to enforce their opinions. They don’t have the money to establish an account for media control. What they have is the respect for integrity of the American people,” Durbin said.

It’s the second revelation in as many weeks about a controversial display outside Alito’s property. The New York Times last week published a photograph of an inverted American flag raised at Alito’s home in Virginia in 2021. Alito said the upside-down US flag was raised by his wife and was a response to a spat with neighbors.

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag is seen in the left side of this photo from January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC, shortly before protesters stormed the US Capitol. Shay Horse/NurPhoto/Getty Images

The episode has drawn fire from critics, including Democrats and key GOP senators, who have called on the justice to recuse himself from cases involving Trump and the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Like the inverted US flag, the Appeal to Heaven flag — also known as the Pine Tree flag — was seen during the attack on the Capitol.

House Speaker Mike Johnson faced blowback for displaying the same flag outside his office last year before assuming the leadership post. The Appeal to Heaven flag remains outside his office as of Wednesday.

Johnson told CNN on Wednesday that “it’s George Washington’s flag. It goes back to the founder’s era. I’ve always flown that flag.”

“It has nothing to do with that,” Johnson said, referring to “stop the steal” protests.

An “Appeal to Heaven” flag is seen outside Speaker Mike Johnson’s personal office in the Cannon House Office Building on Wednesday, May 22. CNN

Alito, along with the other eight justices, appeared on the Supreme Court bench Thursday morning to announce opinions. Two were written by Alito, including in a contentious racial gerrymandering case, and he briefly read synopses of the decisions aloud.

Alito typically wears a stern, even dour, expression, and nothing was markedly different Thursday morning. After tersely reading from the text in front of him, Alito took a sip from his tumbler and leaned back in his tall black leather chair as usual. Nothing from him or the other justices betrayed the increasing controversy surrounding the high court.

The Alitos’ flag choices are gaining attention in part because several high-profile cases are currently pending before the high court involving the election and subsequent attack on the US Capitol, including the blockbuster question of whether Trump may claim immunity from federal election subversion charges.

Another case deals with a January 6 defendant who is challenging an obstruction charge filed by federal prosecutors for his role in the attack.

Some Republican lawmakers defended Alito on Wednesday, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz telling CNN’s Kaitlan Collins that the “entire hoopla is greatly overstated” and accusing Senate Democrats of trying to delegitimize the court.

“From the far left, the court is the one institution that they do not control,” he said on “The Source.”

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan echoed those sentiments, pushing back on criticism of Alito and two other conservative justices.

“Justice Alito is an outstanding justice. The left is always out to go after him, Judge Thomas — of course, we know what they’ve done to Judge Kavanaugh,” Jordan told CNN’s Manu Raju. “They’re all good guys, have done a good job on the court.”

He added that Alito should not recuse himself from the January 6 case.

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Joan Biskupic, Piper Hudspeth Blackburn, Morgan Rimmer, Manu Raju and Shania Shelton contributed to this report.

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