WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday contradicted his Supreme Court nominee’s White House-appointed spokesman, accusing a Democratic senator of misrepresenting federal judge Neil Gorsuch’s criticism of Trump even though the Gorsuch’s spokesman confirmed the criticism.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Wednesday that Gorsuch told him he found Trump’s attack on a federal judge on Twitter “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Gorsuch sits on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver and lives in Boulder.
And within a half-hour, Gorsuch spokesman Ron Bonjean, who was tapped by the White House to head communications for Gorsuch, confirmed Gorsuch used those words in his meeting with Blumenthal.
That didn’t stop Trump from firing off a shot against Blumenthal — and at the same time raising questions about the coherence of the White House’s messaging.
“Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” Trump tweeted Thursday morning.
Gorsuch’s criticism came in response to Trump’s recent criticism of federal judges who have ruled against his immigration ban or appear poised to do so, in particular in reference to one of the president’s tweets slamming one of those judges as a “so-called judge.”
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted Saturday.
On Wednesday, Trump pressed forward with his criticism, arguing that the judiciary has become too political and suggesting that judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals might rule against his appeal to reverse a temporary stay on implementing his travel ban because of political considerations, instead of the law.
Blumenthal stood by his accounting of Gorsuch’s comments, sayhing Thursday he “absolutely and accurately” stated what Gorsuch told him.
“I think that the president needs to hear from Judge Gorsuch about exactly what he is saying to myself and Senate colleagues,” Blumenthal said. “Maybe he simply hasn’t been informed and that’s the reason for his tweet.”
Former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping shepherd Gorsuch’s nomination on the Hill, said in a statement Thursday that Gorsuch has told senators “he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing.”
Ayotte added the judge has made clear he “could not comment on any specific cases and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters.”
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska also confirmed Thursday that Gorsuch criticized Trump’s attacks on the federal judge in a meeting with him as well.
Sasse said Gorsuch “got pretty passionate” about the topic, particularly when he asked Gorsuch about Trump’s “so-called judge” tweet.
“This is a guy who welled up with some energy. He said any attack on any brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges. He believes in an an independent judiciary,” Sasse said.