Judge Neil Gorsuch stressed his independence and defended the integrity of the federal judiciary Tuesday as the Senate hearings on his Supreme Court nomination turned on the search for his judicial philosophy and what one senator called “the elephant in the room” — President Trump.
From the first question from a friendly Republican to a grilling by a Democrat hours later, Gorsuch was called upon on the second day of what is expected to be four days of hearings to state his impartiality and reassure senators he would not be swayed by political pressure if he wins confirmation, which appeared even more likely after his marathon session.
Gorsuch reiterated in public what he had told many senators in private — that he is offended by attacks like the ones leveled by President Trump against federal judges who have ruled in the past year in cases involving him.
“When anyone criticizes the honesty or the integrity or the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening. I find that demoralizing — because I know the truth,” Gorsuch told Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
“Anyone including the president of the United States?” Blumenthal asked, who had made the elephant-in-the-room comment.
Gorsuch declined, however, to comment specifically on Trump’s various critical comments about federal judges, including an Indiana-born judge of Mexican descent who handled a federal court challenge to an online university bearing Trump’s name, or the president’s recent comments about a “so-called” judge who ruled against his attempts to ban travelers from Muslim-dominant countries.
“I’ve gone as far as I can go ethically,” Gorsuch told Blumenthal.
It was a dramatic moment in a day that for the most part lacked color. Gorsuch refused to be pinned down on most of the issues that Democrats raised: his allegiance to Roe v. Wade, his views on money in politics, the extent of the Second Amendment .
He portrayed what Democrats saw as controversial rulings in his 10 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver as authentic attempts to interpret the laws that Congress writes.
“If we got it wrong, I’m very sorry, but we did our level best,” he said about a decision criticized by Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), but added: “It was affirmed by the Supreme Court.”
Republican senators did little more than set Gorsuch up to display an encyclopedic knowledge of the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, and to allow him to stress his roots as an outdoorsy Westerner.
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SOURCE: Robert Barnes and Ed O’Keefe
The Washington Post