Washington Post: Justice Samuel Alito’s wife said upside-down American flag was ‘an international signal of distress’ in 2021 | CNN Politics

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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s wife previously said the inverted American flag flown at the couple’s house in January 2021 was “an international signal of distress,” The Washington Post reported Saturday, detailing an encounter during that time between the Alitos and a Post reporter outside the couple’s home.

The flag was no longer displayed when the reporter, Robert Barnes, visited the justice’s house in Alexandria, Virginia, on the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration to follow up on a related tip, the report said. Martha-Ann Alito demanded the reporter “get off my property” as he came across the couple leaving their home, The Post said.

According to The Post, Martha-Ann Alito yelled, “It’s an international signal of distress!” as Barnes sought information on the matter before the justice led his wife to a car while denying the flag was related to political protest and saying it stemmed from a neighborhood dispute.

Martha-Ann Alito then shouted: “Ask them what they did!” in apparent reference to the Alitos’ neighbors, before retrieving a novelty flag from the couple’s home and yelling, “There! Is that better?” after placing it on the flagpole, according to The Post.

A spokeswoman for The Post said in the article that the newspaper didn’t report on the interaction at the time “because the flag-raising appeared to be the work of Martha-Ann Alito, rather than the justice, and connected to a dispute with her neighbors” and that it was unclear it was rooted in politics.

The Post’s reporting comes as the conservative justice has become embroiled in controversy over displays outside his properties.

The New York Times last week published a photograph of the inverted American flag raised at the Alitos’ 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 dispute involved a neighbor who posted a sign saying “F**k Trump” near a school bus stop and then a sign attacking his wife, Alito said. The justice told Fox News the Alitos got into an argument with the neighbor, who used the term “c**t” at one point. His wife then flew the inverted flag.

The upside-down flag was a symbol for former President Donald Trump’s supporters who falsely claimed widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

The Times then reported Wednesday that a flag that was on display during the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol was seen flying outside the Alitos’ vacation home in New Jersey last summer. The “Appeal to Heaven” flag, which dates to the Revolutionary War, has become a symbol for supporters of Trump.

The revelations about the flags have drawn criticism in Washington, including from key GOP senators and from Democrats, who have called on the justice to recuse himself from cases involving Trump and the 2021 attack on the Capitol.

Senate Republican Whip John Thune, one of the contenders vying to replace retiring Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, told CNN the flag was a “bad decision.”

“I don’t know how you explain that,” the South Dakota Republican said.

The news has also reenergized calls on the left for Congress to enact ethics rules for the Supreme Court, an effort has been stalled for months.

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 properties.

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

CNN’s John Fritze, Holmes Lybrand and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.

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