SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch calls attacks on judiciary 'demoralizing' and 'disheartening'

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Neil Gorsuch

Neil Gorsuch. Photo from the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Updated: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal that President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary are “demoralizing” and “disheartening,” according to the senator and Gorsuch aides who initially confirmed the account.

Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, told reporters that Gorsuch made the comment in a private meeting Wednesday, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Politico and the Hartford Courant report.

Politico says the remark was confirmed by a Gorsuch spokesman, while the Post says Gorsuch’s comments were confirmed by Ron Bonjean, a member of the team helping Gorsuch through the confirmation process.

The spokesperson told Politico that Gorsuch made the comment when Blumenthal asked about Trump’s “so-called judge” tweet, part of his criticism of U.S. District Judge James Robart. The federal judge had issued a nationwide injunction blocking the president’s travel ban that is now on appeal to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping Gorsuch with the confirmation process, said in a statement on Thursday that Gorsuch was speaking generally rather than about a specific case, Fox News reports.

The statement reads: “Judge Gorsuch has made it very clear in all of his discussions with senators, including Senator Blumenthal, that he could not comment on any specific cases and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters. He has also emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary, and while he made clear that he was not referring to any specific case, he said that he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing.”

Trump had criticized Robart in a series of tweets. “The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump wrote. “What is our country coming to when a judge can halt a Homeland Security travel ban and anyone, even with bad intentions, can come into U.S.? Because the ban was lifted by a judge, many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country. A terrible decision.”

Trump later questioned Blumenthal’s account of Gorsuch’s remarks in a tweet, the Washington Post reports. “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 wrote.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Judicial independence ‘not up for negotiation,’ Klein says in speech addressing Trump tweets”

Story updated on Feb. 9 to include Trump tweet questioning Blumenthal’s account and to include Ayotte’s statement.

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