- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2017

President Trump stood by his criticism of federal courts Thursday but also remains pleased with his pick to the Supreme Court, insisting that Democrats are twisting the words of JudgeNeil Gorsuch to undermine his nomination.

JudgeGorsuch told senators this week he was dismayed by Mr. Trump’s Twitter assault on his fellow federal judges, calling it “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Republicans said that showed exactly the kind of independent streak Americans should want in their next justice, but Democrats said they suspected the entire thing was a “ruse” to try to dupe the Senate into confirming a Trump puppet.

For his part though, Mr. Trump insisted that a Democratic senator “misrepresented” comments by JudgeNeil Gorsuch and attacked the initial source — Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat — as a liar. Two other senators since have said the judge spoke similarly to them, and a spokesman for JudgeGorsuch has confirmed the remarks.

“His comments were misrepresented, and what you should do is ask Sen. Blumenthal about his Vietnam record, which didn’t exist,” Mr. Trump told reporters during a White House meeting with a bipartisan group of senators on the nomination. He tweeted similarly earlier Thursday about Mr. Blumenthal’s exaggerations of his military record.

The president has been critical of a federal judge who ruled against his extreme vetting order, and has complained that too many judges act out of political motives.

Mr. Trump continued to back JudgeGorsuch in the meeting, saying he has “impeccable academic and legal credentials.”

“He will apply the law as written,” Mr. Trump told the senators. “He’s a mainstream judge, very much mainstream, and I urge you all to confirm him.”

He also said that “a lot of people are liking him very much on the other side,” but Democratic friends of his have said they may not vote for him for political reasons.

Mr. Blumenthal wasn’t alone though. Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said Thursday that JudgeGorsuch also relayed to him during a private meeting that he was dismayed about Mr. Trump’s attack on a “so-called judge.”

“This is a guy who kind of welled up with some energy, and he said any attack on any — I think his term to me was ‘brothers or sisters of the robe’ — is an attack on all judges, and he believes in an independent judiciary,” Mr. Sasse said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“He understands why we have three branches, and frankly, it seems to me that that’s a good reason why his nomination shouldn’t be politicized,” Mr. Sasse said.

But that isn’t likely to be enough for Democrats, who began demanding Thursday that JudgeGorsuch publicly denounce Mr. Trump’s remarks.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, who also said JudgeGorsuch expressed dismay to him in a private meeting, said it isn’t good enough “to whisper in a closed room, behind closed doors.”

“You can’t just assert ‘I’m an independent person,’” Mr. Schumer said. “You have to show examples.”

Mr. Blumenthal not only said Thursday that he “absolutely accurately stated what JudgeGorsuch said to me,” but specifically called on JudgeGorsuch to go public against the man who nominated him.

“I believe JudgeGorsuch — more than just saying it behind closed doors — needs to publicly condemn these attacks,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.”

The White House said JudgeGorsuch was speaking about any attack in general on the judiciary, not specifically about the president’s criticisms of judges ruling against his extreme vetting proposal for migrants.

The judge was very clear that he was not commenting on any specific matter,” said White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “There’s a big difference between commenting on the specific comments that have been made in the [president’s] tweet, and his general philosophy about the judiciary and his respect for his fellow judges.”

The Democratic National Committee went even further, saying the judge’s dismay was a plot by the White House.

“This is clearly a meaningless White House-orchestrated attempt to help JudgeGorsuch pretend he won’t be a rubber stamp for the Trump administration,” said DNC adviser Zac Petkanas.

The back-and-forth caused Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, Texas Republican, to accuse the Democrats of “grasping at straws” and to tell them to “drop the excuses.”

Mr. Schumer “voted for JudgeGorsuch during the 10th Circuit 10 years ago, as did the entire Senate,” Mr. Cornyn told The Washington Times. “He’s probably got the toughest job in Washington, D.C., having to appease the Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party, so I understand the challenges he’s got.”

JudgeGorsuch continued to meet with senators on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

David Sherfinski and Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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