Chief Justice Blows Off Senators Who Want to Meet About Alito

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has refused to meet with lawmakers regarding their concerns over Justice Samuel Alito’s ability to impartially judge Jan. 6 cases.

In a short letter responding to Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), majority whip and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), chair of the Judiciary subcommittee on federal courts, Roberts wrote that he would “respectfully decline your request for a meeting.”

“As noted in my letter to Chairman Durbin last April, apart from ceremonial events, only on rare occasions in our Nation’s history has a sitting Chief Justice met with legislators, even in a public setting (such as a Committee hearing) with members of both major political parties present,” Roberts wrote. “Separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence counsel against such appearances.”

“A meeting with leaders of only one party who have expressed an interest in matters currently pending before the Court — simply underscores that participating in such a meeting would be inadvisable,” he added.

The lawmakers’ concerns were prompted by reports that Alito has flown at least two flags associated with the 2020 “Stop the Steal” movement — and the Jan. 6 riot — outside of his properties. The concerns are timely given that the court is currently weighing two cases related to the Jan. 6 riot. One would potentially grant former President Donald Trump immunity from prosecution on alleged crimes related to his role in 2020 election subversion efforts, and another could hinder the Justice Department’s ability to prosecute participants in the Capitol riot under the crime of obstruction of an official proceeding.

Last week, Durbin and Whitehouse sent a letter to Roberts requesting a meeting “as soon as possible” and urging him to “immediately take appropriate steps to ensure that Justice Alito will recuse himself in any cases related to the 2020 presidential election and January 6th attack on the Capitol.” The request followed a letter from 40 House Democrats calling for Alito to recuse himself from the cases.

On Wednesday, Alito responded to the outcry with a firm refusal to recuse himself from the cases, and blamed his wife for the flags’ presence at his homes.

“As I have stated publicly, I had nothing whatsoever to do with the flying of that flag,” Alito wrote. “I was not even aware of the upside-down flag until it was called to my attention. As soon as I saw it, I asked my wife to take it down, but for several days, she refused.”

“My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not,” he added.

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