Washington – President Donald Trump put Sen. Richard Blumenthal in the bulls-eye Thursday, attacking the Connecticut senator’s credibility in describing a private meeting with Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
But others, including a Nebraska Republican, confirm that Gorsuch criticized Trump’s attacks on the federal judiciary.
Blumenthal said that during a “courtesy meeting” on Wednesday in his office, Gorsuch said Trump’s attacks on the federal judiciary were “disheartening” and “demoralizing,” an account confirmed by others in the room, including Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist who was tapped by the Trump administration to help with the tough confirmation fights for some of the president’s nominees
Bonjean did not return calls for comment Thursday after a Trump tweet attacked Blumenthal.
“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.
Blumenthal, who was a stateside Marine Corps reservist during the war, acknowledged that he “misspoke” while campaigning for the Senate in 2008 when he said, “We have learned something important since the days that I served in Vietnam.”
But Blumenthal said he did not misspeak about his conversation with Gorsuch, saying, “I have absolutely accurately stated what Judge Gorsuch said to me.”
Blumenthal said Gorsuch made the statements in response to the senator’s criticisms of a series of Trump tweets and comments about U.S. District Judge James Robart of Seattle who issued a nationwide stay of the president’s executive order barring travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority nations.
Trump disparaged “the so-called judge” in a tweet and warned his ruling “put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system.”
Blumenthal took to the airwaves Thursday to press his case.
“(Gorsuch) has made the same statements more than once In fact he made the same statements to some of my colleagues, including Senator (Charles) Schumer,” Blumenthal said in an interview with CNN. “But I think that telling me that he finds these attacks to be demoralizing or dishecartening behind closed doors is not enough. He needs to make that statement publicly and condemn these attacks on the judiciary and show the American people he would be independent.”
Blumenthal said that he would not ordinarily ask a Supreme Court nominee questions that are political in nature, but that these are not normal times.
“We’re careening towards a constitutional crisis,” he said.
Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., confirmed that Gorsuch had criticized Trump’s treatment of the federal judiciary.
“”Disheartening’ is a great word,” Sasse said on MSNBC. “Judge Gorsuch and I actually talked about that, and frankly he got pretty passionate about it. I asked him about the ‘so-called judges’ comment, because we don’t have ‘so-called judges,’ or ‘so-called presidents,’ or ‘so-called senators,’ and this is a guy who kind of welled up with some energy and he said ‘any attack on any of’ – 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.”