It's not everyday that a judicial nominee openly criticizes the president who nominated him in the midst of the judicial confirmation process. But that is exactly what happened yesterday when Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, denounced Trump's recent attacks on the judiciary as "demoralizing" and "disheartening."
Gorsuch's statements came in a meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who later told the press what Gorsuch said about Trump. A spokesperson for Gorsuch then confirmed that the judge had indeed faulted the president. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also reported that Gorsuch lambasted Trump in a meeting with him.
Predictably, Trump took to Twitter early this morning: "Sen.Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie),now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?" Unfortunately for Trump, Gorsuch's spokesperson has confirmed Gorsuch's words. Trump can tweet about it all he wants, but Trump can't change the reality of Gorsuch's statements.
Gorsuch is absolutely right to be dismayed by Trump's actions. Over the weekend Trump attacked the "so-called" federal judge hearing the case against his executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries. "Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system," Trump wrote. Trump's bully pulpit tactics are plainly intended to undermine the independence of the judicial branch and to deter it from ruling against him.
When Trump nominated Gorsuch to the Supreme Court last week, I noted that Gorsuch's judicial record includes some impressive opinions against overreaching law enforcement and against the overreaching executive branch. "Gorsuch demonstrated admirable and reassuring judgement in these cases," I concluded. "It's not difficult to imagine Gorsuch imposing the same severe judicial scrutiny against the misdeeds of the Trump administration."
It turns out that Gorsuch felt compelled to benchslap Trump a little sooner than expected.
Related: If you were outraged by Obama's attacks on the judiciary, you should be outraged by Trump's.