10 Feb 2017

Trump insists Supreme Court nominee didn't criticise him

8:08 am on 10 February 2017

Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, has described the US president's attacks on a judge as "demoralising" and "disheartening" but Mr Trump insists the comments have been "misinterpreted".

Judge Neil Gorsuch, left, and Donald Trump

Judge Neil Gorsuch, left, said attacks on a judge by Donald Trump, right, were "demoralising" and "disheartening" Photo: AFP

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said on Wednesday (local time) that Judge Gorsuch had made the comments during a meeting with him. Judge Gorsuch's spokeswoman confirmed he had made the remarks as did Kelly Ayotte, a Republican former senator from New Hampshire who was at the meeting. Other senators, including Republican Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Democrat Chuck Schumer of New York, said Gorsuch made similar comments to them.

The judge's criticism comes after President Trump launched Twitter attacks on a judge who suspended his travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. A federal appeals court in San Francisco has since heard arguments over the ban and is expected to decide in coming days on the question of whether US District Judge James Robart acted properly in temporarily halting enforcement of Mr Trump's ban.

In one Twitter post, Mr Trump said, "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!"

He also complained that some courts were "so political".

Mr Trump now says Judge Gorsuch's comments have been misrepresented.

In a Twitter post he disputed Senator Blumenthal's account of the conversation and sought to revive a years-old controversy over the his military service during the Vietnam War era.

"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.

He offered no evidence of a misrepresentation and did not explain why several people had been able to confirm the judge made the comments.

Judge Gorsuch, a conservative federal appeals court judge from Colorado who Mr Trump nominated for a lifetime post on the Supreme Court on 31 January, might be hoping to help win Democratic support in the US Senate for his confirmation by demonstrating independence from the Republican president.

"He has to show the American people that he'll be more than a rubber stamp for Donald Trump," Mr Blumenthal told CNN.

Democrats have called Mr Trump's Twitter comments about the justice system an attack on a core principle of American democracy that the judiciary is independent and upholds the rule of law.

- BBC / Reuters