WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Thursday, saying the Connecticut Democrat “misrepresents” what his Supreme Court nominee said during a private meeting.
The attack on an undecided Democrat on the Judiciary Committee won’t make the White House’s job any easier as it searches for Democratic votes to confirm Neil Gorsuch, who met with Blumenthal on Wednesday. And Trump drew a parallel from criticism in 2010 that Blumenthal had misrepresented his military service during Vietnam to what he said Gorsuch told him.
“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. The tweet, as they often do in the mornings when Trump is alone in the White House residence, came from his personal account.
Trump took umbrage with Blumenthal after the senator told reporters that Gorsuch told him that he found the president’s recent attacks on federal judges “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Gorsuch was referring to a Saturday morning Trump tweet that called a federal judge who had ruled against his travel ban on immigrants from several Muslim countries a “so-called judge.”
“He certainly expressed to me that he is disheartened by the demoralizing and abhorrent comments made by President Trump about the judiciary, but I will be asking for more specific and forthcoming responses to those kinds of questions before I determine how I will vote,” Blumenthal said.
Former Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is guiding Gorsuch through the confirmation process and was in the meeting with Blumenthal, confirmed on MSNBC Wednesday evening that Gorsuch was critical of the personal attacks on a federal judge.
Blumenthal told CNN on Thursday morning that the country is “careening toward a constitutional crisis” due to Trump’s repeated attacks on the judicial branch.
“He needs to show the American people that he’ll be more than a rubber stamp for Donald Trump,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal, who said Thursday he remains undecided how he will vote, said the nominee vowed to “adhere, generally, to precedent.”
On Wednesday as he was heading to the Senate chamber to vote, Blumenthal told reporters Gorsuch needs to issue a public condemnation of Trump’s attacks of federal judges.
“Judge Gorsuch has to prove his independence to the American public, not by telling me that these attacks are disheartening or demoralizing in the private of my office,” Blumenthal said Wednesday evening. “It has to be a condemnation in public.”
Blumenthal is a member of the Judiciary Committee that will hold Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings and hold the first votes on his nomination. Unless Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., alters the Senate rules to allow the nomination to pass with 50 votes, Trump needs eight Democrats to vote with Republicans to clear a 60-vote threshold.
During his meeting, Blumenthal told Gorsuch, “There’s an elephant in the room with us today, and that elephant is Donald Trump — he makes this situation unique because he has launched this blistering attack on the American judiciary.”
Asked whether he intends to ask Gorsuch to repeat his critical comments of the president during his Judiciary Committee hearing, Blumenthal replied: “Very definitely. I’m going to press for a real condemnation, in public, as part of what he says between now and the end of the hearing.”
Trump slammed Blumenthal for saying in 2010 that he served “in Vietnam.” At the time, the Marine Corps Reserve veteran said he meant to say he served “during Vietnam” and merely misspoke.