WASHINGTON (CN) – Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on Wednesday called President Donald Trump’s criticism of the judicial branch “demoralizing” and “disheartening,” according to a Democratic senator he met with earlier in the day.
Gorsuch expressed the concerns about Trump’s tweet referring to the judge who blocked his executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries as a “so-called judge” during a meeting Wednesday with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“He said very specifically that they were demoralizing and disheartening and he characterized them very specifically that way,” Blumenthal said, according to CNN.
Democrats have taken Trump’s tweets as another opportunity to express skepticism about Gorsuch, who they insist will need to overcome a filibuster to take his seat on the bench. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter on Tuesday it is “imperative” that the Supreme Court serve as a strong check on Trump, given the actions and rhetoric of his first weeks in office.
Trump has gone beyond specific attacks against the Seattle judge to express his anger over the entire judicial branch, telling his followers to blame judges if an attack happens while his order is stayed. The Ninth Circuit heard arguments regarding the stay on Tuesday.
“Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
Blumenthal told reporters last week that he has “serious, deep concerns” about Gorsuch’s record but would not say whether he would outright reject Trump’s choice to fill the vacant ninth seat on the Supreme Court.
“I’m going to review the merits and qualifications of this nominee as I would any other, especially because it’s a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court,” Blumenthal said last week.
And Sen. Dick Durbin was not impressed by Gorsuch’s comments, saying nominees know what they need to say to remain viable.
“I just heard the word disheartened and I thought, that’s as soft a pitch as you can throw at somebody,” Durbin told reporters with a laugh.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, was more cautiously optimistic about the remarks.
“Oh absolutely,” Feinstein said Wednesday when asked if Gorsuch’s comments demonstrated a measure of independence. “But that’s to be determined.”