“No­body is above the law”

In­de­pen­dence: Gor­such seeks to re­as­sure sen­a­tors that he would not be swayed by po­lit­i­cal pres­sure. Crit­i­cism: Gor­such calls Pres­i­dent Trump’s at­tacks on judges “dis­heart­en­ing” and “de­mor­al­iz­ing.”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Mark K. Matthews

I have of­fered no prom­ises on how I would rule in any case to any­one, and I don’t think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for a judge to do so, no mat­ter who is do­ing the ask­ing.”

Judge Neil Gor­such

WASH­ING­TON» Law­mak­ers on the U.S. Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee ques­tioned Judge Neil Gor­such for more than 11 hours on Tues­day, prob­ing the Colorado na­tive for his views on abor­tion, tor­ture and cam­paign fi­nance.

But the U.S. Supreme Court nom­i­nee largely de­flected the queries, in­sist­ing it would be un­fair for him to pre­judge fu­ture cases while tak­ing for the record a few in­quiries about his role at the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush as that ad­min­is­tra­tion weighed how it should treat ter­ror­ism de­tainees.

“I have of­fered no prom­ises on how I would rule in any case to any­one, and I don’t think it’s ap­pro­pri­ate for a judge to do so, no mat­ter who is do­ing the ask­ing,” Gor­such said.

Much of the de­bate in the com­mit­tee fo­cused on abor­tion, a peren­nial is­sue when the up­per cham­ber con­sid­ers a high-court nom­i­nee.

Dur­ing his 2016 cam­paign, Don­ald Trump said he would, as pres­i­dent, ap­point anti-abor­tion nom­i­nees to the Supreme Court — and that promise has reignited the de­bate over Roe vs. Wade, the land­mark case that broadly le­gal­ized abor­tion.

Democrats and Repub­li­cans on Tues­day pressed Gor­such on how much def­er­ence he would give the 1973 de­ci­sion.

“Do you view Roe as hav­ing su­per prece­dent?” asked U.S. Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein, D-Calif.

He re­sponded: “It has been reaf­firmed many times. I can say that.”

In an­other ex­change, U.S. Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., probed Gor­such on whether Trump ever asked him about Roe vs. Wade.

“I would have walked out the door,” said Gor­such. Such an in­quiry would have been in­ap­pro­pri­ate, he said.

The de­flec­tions, how­ever, have not quelled con­cern from abor­tion-rights groups, which are among his big­gest crit­ics and have pointed to his past views as a rea­son to be con­cerned about Roe vs. Wade.

No­tably, they have high­lighted Gor­such’s op­po­si­tion to euthana­sia and his past opin­ions that sided with groups that — cit­ing re­li­gious be­liefs — were op­posed to man­dates for con­tra­cep­tive cov­er­age un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act.

An­other is­sue raised dur­ing the hear­ing was the time Gor­such spent with the Jus- tice Depart­ment coun­sel­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion on na­tional se­cu­rity and its treat­ment of ter­ror­ism sus­pects. In 2005, Gor­such toured the de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity at Guan­tanamo Bay and, af­ter­ward, sug­gested to his col­leagues that a sim­i­lar trip by skep­ti­cal judges could help win sup­port for the White House po­si­tion.

“A visit, or even just the of­fer of a visit, might help dis­pel myths and build con­fi­dence in our rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the Court about con­di­tions and de­tainee treat­ment,” wrote Gor­such and re­ported by Politico.

Fe­in­stein also asked about his role in craft­ing the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­sponse to the De­tainee Treat­ment Act of 2005, which out­lawed the cruel treat­ment of U.S. pris­on­ers, in­clud­ing de­tainees.

Known as a sign­ing state­ment, the White House re­sponse drew crit­i­cism be­cause it may have con­tained a loop­hole that would have al­lowed Bush to con­tinue what his ad­min­is­tra­tion de­scribed as en­hanced-in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques.

“There were in­di­vid­u­als in maybe the vice pres­i­dent’s of­fice who wanted a more ag­gres­sive state­ment,” Gor­such said. “And there were oth­ers, in­clud­ing the State Depart­ment, who wanted a gen­tler sign­ing state­ment. My rec­ol­lec­tion sit­ting here … is that I was in the lat­ter camp.”

Later, he added that “no man is above the law” when asked about the loop­hole. But he asked to re­view the record be­fore an­swer­ing sev­eral ques­tions about his time at Jus­tice.

The re­quest was in keep­ing with Gor­such’s de­meanor through much of Tues­day’s hear­ing. Through­out the day-long ses­sion, Gor­such, 49, kept an even keel — of­ten telling sen­a­tors he wouldn’t com­ment or spec­u­late in re­sponse to ques­tions about wire-tap­ping, gun con­trol or pol­i­tics.

A num­ber of Se­nate Democrats, in­clud­ing Michael Ben­net of Colorado, have said a crit­i­cal is­sue for them on the Gor­such nom­i­na­tion is his ap­proach to the Cit­i­zens United case and the in­flu­ence of spe­cial-in­ter­est money on U.S. elec­tions.

Asked whether po­lit­i­cal spend­ing by cor­po­ra­tions was pro­tected by free speech, Gor­such said Cit­i­zens United gave room to Congress to write new cam­paign fi­nance laws.

“There is am­ple room for this body to leg­is­late even in light of Cit­i­zens United, whether it has to do with con­tri­bu­tion lim­its, whether it has to do with ex­pen­di­ture lim­its or whether it has to do with dis­clo­sure re­quire­ments,” Gor­such said.

The line of in­quiry took a per­sonal turn when U.S. Sen. Pa­trick Leahy, D-Vt., ques­tioned Gor­such about his ties to bil­lion­aire Philip An­schutz, a Colorado power­bro­ker and con­trib­u­tor to po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns.

Early in his ca­reer, Gor­such did le­gal work for An­schutz, and Gor­such made enough of an im­pres­sion that the busi­ness mag­nate lob­bied Congress and the White House on his be­half when he was a can­di­date in 2006 for his cur­rent post as judge on the 10th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals.

“All of my clients — or an aw­ful lot of them — came out of the wood­work to say nice sup­port­ive things about me,” Gor­such said. “Phil An­schutz was one.”

Gor­such faced other ques­tions about Trump, no­tably the pres­i­dent’s pointed crit­i­cism of the ju­di­ciary when the courts have ruled against him or the White House.

Pre­vi­ously, Gor­such was said to have de­scribed such at­tacks as “de­mor­al­iz­ing” and “dis­heart­en­ing,” and on Tues­day he re­it­er­ated his con­cern. “When any­one crit­i­cizes the hon­esty or the in­tegrity or the mo­ti­va­tions of a fed­eral judge, I find that dis­heart­en­ing,” he said. “I find that de­mor­al­iz­ing be­cause I know the truth.”

Asked whether that in­cluded Trump, he said: “Any­one is any­one.”

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