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Chief Justice John Roberts rejected a meeting request from Democratic lawmakers who wanted to discuss two provocative flags flown at Justice Samuel Alito’s properties. Roberts cited separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence as reasons for denying the meeting. Alito had previously told lawmakers that he will not recuse himself in cases involving the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, despite concerns raised by Democrats. Alito explained that his wife had hoisted an upside-down American flag in response to a neighborhood dispute in January 2021 and raised an “Appeal to Heaven” flag at their New Jersey property the previous summer. These flags are associated with supporters of former President Donald Trump and were present at the Capitol during the riot.

Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse had demanded Alito’s recusal in cases related to the flags and the Capitol attack and had requested a meeting with Roberts to discuss the Supreme Court’s ethics crisis. In response to their request, Roberts expressed his belief that participating in a meeting with only one party interested in matters currently pending before the court would be inadvisable. The Republican leaders of the Judiciary Committee were also copied on the meeting request and Roberts’ response. The Supreme Court is currently considering two appeals connected to the 2020 election and the attack on the US Capitol, including Trump’s claim of immunity from election subversion charges and a challenge to an obstruction charge filed against a January 6 rioter.

Durbin and Whitehouse did not immediately respond to the chief justice’s letter or the denial of their meeting request. The issue of the flags flown at Alito’s properties and his decision not to recuse himself in cases related to the Capitol attack have raised concerns about judicial ethics and independence within the Supreme Court. The flags’ association with Trump supporters and the riot at the Capitol have added to the controversy surrounding the situation. The decisions made by Alito and Roberts, as well as the responses from Democratic lawmakers, highlight the ongoing tensions and ethical considerations within the highest court in the land. The story continues to develop as additional details emerge and further actions are taken by all parties involved.

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