Chief Justice Roberts says he'll stay clear of Alito's Trump recusal refusal

WASHINGTON − Chief Justice John Roberts on Thursday said he's not getting involved in Justice Samuel Alito's refusal to step aside from Supreme Court cases related to the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol.

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Roberts, without commenting on Alito's choice, said recusal decisions are left to the individual justices under the court's ethics code.

Roberts also declined the committee's request to meet to discuss ethics questions swirling around the court, citing the need for "judicial independence" and the fact that the invitation came solely from the committee's Democrats.

A meeting with leaders of only one party "simply underscores that participating in such a meeting would be inadvisable," Roberts wrote to Sen. Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who chairs the committee, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the Rhode Island Democrat who heads a panel on the federal courts.

Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court
Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court

Alito is under fire following media reports that flags associated with the "Stop the Steal" movement flew from his homes in Virginia and New Jersey.

Like Roberts, Alito on Wednesday similarly raised the issue of partisanship when explaining in a letter to congressional Democrats why he was not recusing himself.

The justice said anyone “not motivated by political or ideological considerations” and not trying to affect the outcome of a case would agree that recusal isn’t warranted.

Related Justice Alito rejects demands that he step aside from Jan. 6 cases because of flags

Alito said the flags were raised by his wife and were not in support of the "Stop the Steal" movement.

"My wife is fond of flying flags," Alito wrote. "I am not."

The high court is deciding two cases related to attempts by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn the results of the 2020 election, decisions that will affect the criminal election interference charges pending against Trump.

Durbin said Alito's refusal to recuse shows why the ethics code the court adopted last year needs an enforcement mechanism.

More: Samuel Alito flew an 'Appeal to Heaven' flag outside his Long Beach vacation home: report

“Flying the American flag upside down at his home is a signal of defiance, which raises reasonable questions about bias and fairness in cases pending before the Court,” Durbin said in a statement Wednesday.

Durbin has been under pressure from liberal groups to crack down on the court following recent ethics controversies that have also involved posh vacations taken by Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Justice Roberts says Alito solely responsible for recusal choice