President Trump lashed out Thursday over criticism from his Supreme Court pick of Trump’s own attacks on the judiciary.
Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s high court nominee, told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) that he was “disheartened” by the president’s disparaging statements about the judiciary, the lawmaker told reporters after meeting Gorsuch on Capitol Hill a day earlier.
A representative for Gorsuch also confirmed his comments to Blumenthal, and another senator said Gorsuch made similar remarks to him.
But Trump fired back at Blumenthal, saying he had misrepresented Gorsuch’s comments. The president also took aim at Blumenthal’s credibility, bringing up a 7-year-old controversy over the senator’s military service.
“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.
During Blumenthal’s campaign for Senate in 2010, he was criticized for claiming in speeches that he had served in Vietnam. Blumenthal had been in the Marine Corps Reserve and was not posted overseas. He later said he had misspoken about his record a few times out of the hundreds of speeches he has given in his political career.
Trump himself was disqualified from service during the Vietnam War in 1968 after a physical exam. Trump told the New York Times he received a medical deferment because of bone spurs in his heels.
Senators from both parties have been meeting with Gorsuch this week as he prepares for a confirmation hearing on his nomination to a lifetime appointment to the court.
A Republican, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, told MSNBC that Gorsuch made similar comments to him and “got pretty passionate about it.”
“He said any of attack on any … brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges,” Sasse said of Gorsuch. “And he believes in an independent judiciary.”
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is serving as a White House liaison between Gorsuch and lawmakers, said Thursday that Gorsuch was not commenting on a specific case and emphasized that he was troubled by any attack on the judiciary.
“He said that he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing,” she said in a statement.
Trump has attacked judges as his executive order temporarily blocking travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations, as well as all refugees, is challenged in court.
While Trump is not the first president to go after judges, his attacks have been unusually personal.
Over the weekend, Trump called the Seattle judge who suspended his travel ban a “so-called judge” and said Americans should blame him if there were terrorist attacks in the U.S. And at a conference of police chiefs in Washington on Wednesday, Trump accused judges ruling against him of acting with political motives.
Trump also blasted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for questioning the success of the Jan. 29 U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen during which Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, 36, died, three other commandos were wounded and at least 11 women and children were killed.
The Pentagon has said the raid was successful because the military gathered valuable intelligence on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. But McCain questioned that assessment Wednesday.
“While many of the objectives of the recent raid in Yemen were met, I would not describe any operation that results in the loss of American life as a success,” McCain said in a statement.