Trump nom­i­nee de­cried crit­i­cism of judges: sen­a­tors

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD -

WASHINGTON — United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in­sisted Thurs­day that com­ments by his Supreme Court nom­i­nee crit­i­ciz­ing his own at­tacks on the ju­di­ciary were “mis­rep­re­sented,” even as Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic law­mak­ers vouched for the ve­rac­ity of the re­marks.

Trump re­sponded af­ter pri­vate re­bukes from Judge Neil Gor­such, who said in meet­ings with law­mak­ers on Wed­nes­day that the pres­i­dent’s com­ments about fed­eral judges were “dis­heart­en­ing.”

Gor­such, who was nom­i­nated by Trump last week to the na­tion’s high­est court, made the com­ments in meet­ings with sen­a­tors af­ter Trump ac­cused an ap­peals court panel con­sid­er­ing his im­mi­gra­tion and refugee ex­ec­u­tive or­der of be­ing “so po­lit­i­cal.” Over the week­end, he la­belled a judge who ruled on his ex­ec­u­tive or­der a “so-called judge” and re­ferred to the rul­ing as “ridicu­lous.”

Demo­cratic Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal of Con­necti­cut first re­layed Gor­such’s re­marks on Wed­nes­day fol­low­ing a meet­ing with him. Trump’s own con­fir­ma­tion team for Gor­such later con­firmed he had made the re­marks.

But Trump said dur­ing a Thurs­day lun­cheon with sen­a­tors that Blu­men­thal had mis­rep­re­sented Gor­such. “His com­ments were mis­rep­re­sented. And what you should do is ask Se­na­tor Blu­men­thal about his Viet­nam record that didn’t ex­ist af­ter years of say­ing it did,” he said.

Blu­men­thal, who served in the Marine Corps Re­serves dur­ing Viet­nam, apol­o­gized in 2010 for say­ing he had served in Viet­nam.

The pres­i­dent made the com­ments while mak­ing the case for Gor­such dur­ing a lun­cheon with 10 sen­a­tors, in­clud­ing six of Blu­men­thal’s fel­low Democrats.

Blu­men­thal, a former state at­tor­ney gen­eral, ar­gued Thurs­day that Gor­such would need to go fur­ther to pub­licly de­nounce Trump’s ver­bal as­sault on ju­di­cial in­de­pen­dence.

Law­mak­ers from both par­ties quickly vouched for the ve­rac­ity of the re­marks the se­na­tor said Gor­such made. GOP former Sen. Kelly Ay­otte, who is help­ing with Gor­such’s con­fir­ma­tion and was at the meet­ing, is­sued a state­ment say­ing Gor­such made clear he was not re­fer­ring to any spe­cific case. But she said the nom­i­nee said he finds any crit­i­cism of a judge’s in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence to be “dis­heart­en­ing and de­mor­al­iz­ing.”

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Demo­crat Chuck Schumer, and Repub­li­can Sen. Ben Sasse, each con­firmed that Gor­such made the same com­ments to them.

Sasse told MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe,” “Frankly, he got pretty pas­sion­ate about it.” He added that Gor­such said any at­tack on the “’broth­ers or sis­ters of the robe is an at­tack on all judges’.”

Fel­low Con­necti­cut Demo­cratic Sen. Chris Mur­phy came to Blu­men­thal’s de­fence Thurs­day, lash­ing out in a tweet di­rected at Trump: “Ha! As a pros­e­cu­tor, Dick used to put guys like u in jail. Now, u use your po­si­tion to mock vets, he uses his to make their lives bet­ter.”

Gor­such’s com­ments came at the end of a week of meet­ings with mem­bers of the Se­nate, which is con­sid­er­ing his nom­i­na­tion. His re­sponse may have been aimed at draw­ing a line of sep­a­ra­tion with the new pres­i­dent.

The 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals is weigh­ing the ap­peal of Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der on im­mi­gra­tion, which in­cluded a tem­po­rary travel ban on peo­ple from seven Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­tries. In a hear­ing Tues­day, judges on the ap­peals court chal­lenged the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s claim that the ban was mo­ti­vated by ter­ror­ism fears, but they also ques­tioned an at­tor­ney’s ar­gu­ment that it un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally tar­geted Mus­lims.

AL DRAGO, NEW YORK TIMES

VIVIAN SALAMA AND KEN THOMAS Judge Neil Gor­such, right, meets with Demo­crat Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal in his of­fices on Wed­nes­day.

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