Dem senator: Court pick calls Trump’s words ‘demoralizing’

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has said he found the president’s attacks on the judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing,” according to a Democratic senator.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut disclosed the comments from Judge Neil Gorsuch after meeting with the nominee Wednesday, as the candidate for the high court vacancy paid a series of courtesy visits to senators.

In a tweet this past weekend, Trump lashed out at Judge James Robart after he issued a stay on the president’s refugee and immigration ban.

“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted.

That comment drew rebukes from Republicans and Democrats.

Blumenthal said that in his meeting with Gorsuch, the federal judge said Trump’s criticism was “demoralizing and disheartening.”

Gorsuch’s confirmation team confirmed the judge’s comments.

Blumenthal said later Wednesday that unless Gorsuch goes public with his concerns, the American public will conclude that he is more likely to be a “rubber stamp” for the president.

“He needs to condemn Donald Trump’s attacks publicly and it needs to be much stronger, more explicit and direct than has been done so far,” Blumenthal said. “Unless it is done publicly in a clear condemnation, it will not establish his independence.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing the appeal of Trump’s executive order on immigration, which temporarily suspends the country’s refugee program and bans travel for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries. In a hearing Tuesday, judges on the appeals court challenged the administration’s claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but also questioned an attorney’s argument that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.

Trump kept up his criticism of members of the judiciary Wednesday, slamming the court that is deliberating his executive order and describing motivations as “so political.” He made the comments while speaking to a group of police chiefs and sheriffs.

Gorsuch is making the rounds in the Senate, drawing praise from Republicans but skepticism from many Democrats, including Blumenthal.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said after meeting with Gorsuch that they had “a thorough conversation about the importance of the rule of law and of a judiciary that is independent of the executive and legislative branches of government.”