Donald Trump came out swinging on Tuesday following a report that he nearly canceled Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination.
‘A story in the @washingtonpost that I was close to “rescinding” the nomination of Justice Gorsuch prior to confirmation is FAKE NEWS,’ the president tweeted.
‘I never even wavered and am very proud of him and the job he is doing as a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. The unnamed sources don’t exist!’
The Washington Post cited 11 sources who it says were ‘familiar with’ an episode that had Trump venting to aides after Gorsuch reportedly criticized the president to senators overseeing his confirmation.
Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch (pictured during his confirmation hearing) was almost yanked out of contention by the White House, according to a Washington Post report
Trump was reportedly angry with Gorsuch after he criticized the president’s attacks on federal judges
Trump has been openly hostile to judges who buck his agenda and imperil his business empire. It was those sentiments that had irked Gorsuch, one Democratic senator claimed earlier in the year.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told reporters in February that the president’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary were ‘disheartening’ and ‘demoralizing’ to independent federal courts.
Trump immediately took issue with that claim, also published by the Post, citing a longstanding scandal involving Blumenthal’s false claims that he served in uniform in Vietnam.
‘Sen.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 hours later.
But during his confirmation hearing, Blumenthal asked him about it point-blank.
‘When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening. I find that demoralizing. Because I know the truth,’ the then-nominee said.
‘Anyone including the President of the United States?’ Blumenthal asked him.
‘Anyone is anyone,’ Gorsuch replied.
The president bashed the Post on Twitter, saying Tuesday that its ‘unnamed sources don’t exist’
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (left) grilled Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch (right) during his confirmation hearing about President Donald Trump’s attacks on federal judges, prompting Gorsuch to criticize – without naming Trump – ‘anyone’ who questions a jurist’s integrity or motives
Gorsuch (left) is seen with his wife Louise Gorsuch at his April 10 swearing in, as President Trump watches Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy administer the oath
Gorsuch was back in Trump’s good graces by early March, according to the Post, sending him a congratulatory note after his first address to a Joint Session of Congress.
‘Your address to Congress was magnificent,’ Gorsuch wrote. ‘And you were so kind to recognize Mrs. Scalia, remember the justice, and mention me. My teenage daughters were cheering the TV!’
‘The team you have assembled to assist me in the Senate is remarkable and inspiring,” he added. ‘I see daily their love of country and our Constitution, and know it is a tribute to you and your leadership for policy is always about personnel.’
But the Post reported that in a meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Trump directly attacked Gorsuch.
‘He’s probably going to end up being a liberal like the rest of them,’ Trump said, according to a Post source. ‘You never know with these guys.’
The newspaper didn’t explain how someone ‘familiar’ with the incident – but presumably not in the room – was able to precisely quote the president at least eight months later.
That source is likely a Capitol Hill staffer: The Post said he or she faulted the White House for failing to warn Trump that Gorsuch might go out of his way to assert his independence from him.
Trump has been openly hostile to ‘so-called’ judges who cross him, including one in Seattle who blocked his travel ban
While he was still a candidate, Trump blasted a Mexican-american judge whom he said was biased against him in a business-related lawsuit
Judge Gonzalo Curiel (left) ruled against Trump in his ‘Trump University’ case in San Diego; Seattle Judge James Robart (right) temporarily sidelined his travel ban order in February
Instead of being reassured, Trump let out an ‘explosion’ and questioned whether Gorsuch would be ‘loyal,’ according to the Post.
If true, that would stand in sharp contrast with the president’s kinder tweeted words after his public nomination announcement: ‘He is a good and brilliant man, respected by all.’
The president’s tangled relationship with federal courts is well-documented.
Following a Bush-appointed judge’s decision to block his multi-nation travel ban in early February, he erupted on Twitter that ‘[t]he opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!’
In a separate campaign-year squabble, Trump claimed a San Diego judge was biased against him because of his Mexican heritage.
‘I should have easily won the Trump University case on summary judgement but have a judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who is totally biased against me,’ he tweeted in May 2016.
The White House publicly denied that Gorsuch’s nomination was ever in jeopardy.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has blasted reporters publicly for citing unnamed aides in their stories critical of the president, saying they should ‘develop better sources’
‘The president’s nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch was among his first and most important accomplishments during his first year in office, and delivered on a major campaign promise,’ Trump spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.
‘At no point did the president consider withdrawing Justice Gorsuch’s nomination. He is very proud of the accomplishment.’
Trump and senior White House aides have been openly critical of reporters using unnamed sources to justify running stories openly critical of the president.
In an October 12 press briefing, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly upbraided journalists for publishing flawed information and said that they should ‘develop better sources.’