President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court has called the president's recent criticism of the judiciary "disheartening" and "demoralizing," a spokesman for the nomination confirmation team told NBC News on Wednesday.Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said Wednesday that he spoke with U.S. Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch and that Gorsuch "certainly expressed to me that he is disheartened by the demoralizing and abhorrent comments made by President Trump about the judiciary."A spokesman for the team shepherding Gorsuch's nomination in the Senate confirmed Blumenthal's version of the conversation to NBC News and said Gorsuch did use the words "disheartening" and "demoralizing."
With his Muslim ban running into trouble in the courts, Donald Trump has taken highly provocative steps in recent days to attack the federal judiciary. Months after targeting a judge with overtly racist rhetoric, the Republican president is at it again, lashing out at another federal jurist and the court system itself.Yesterday, Trump delivered remarks in which he suggested the federal bench should rule his way or risk political marginalization. "If these judges wanted to help the court in terms of respect for the court, they'd do what they should be doing," he said, adding, "[C]ourts seem to be so political, and it would be so great for our justice system if they would read [the law] and do what's right."As a Washington Post report put it, the president was "basically saying: That's a nice reputation you've got there. It'd be a shame if something happened to it."Even Trump's Supreme Court nominee disapproves.
It seemed plausible to believe all the relevant players were acting out their parts in this story. It helps Gorsuch's nomination if he's seen distancing himself from Trump, so has every incentive to rebuke the president's anti-judiciary comments -- and let everyone know he rebuked the president's anti-judiciary comments.In fact, part of me wondered whether there was a Kabuki-theater element to this, with Gorsuch perhaps getting a behind-the-scenes green light from the White House to make these comments and acknowledge their veracity.And then Trump himself weighed in this morning via Twitter, attacking Sen. Blumenthal and accusing the Democratic senator of "misrepresenting what Judge Gorsuch told him."This is bonkers. Blumenthal didn't "misrepresent" Gorsuch; the judge's team confirmed Blumenthal's story. In effect, the president is arguing we should ignore what Gorsuch said about his own comments.After nearly three weeks in office, the Gorsuch nomination was arguably the one thing Trump hadn't completely screwed up. As of this morning, he couldn't leave well enough alone.