Dem senator: Gorsuch told me Trump's criticism of Judge Robart was "demoralizing" and "disheartening"

Shucks. You can’t believe what a Democrat tells you, especially knowing that he’s trying to drive a wedge between Trump and his SCOTUS pick. This is why we have hearsay rules in court. There’s no easier lie than “X told me Y.”

But wait. One of Gorsuch’s own Republican aides, assigned to help shepherd him through the confirmation process, was at the meeting with Blumenthal — and confirms that Gorsuch did criticize Trump.

“He said very specifically that they were demoralizing and disheartening and he characterized them very specifically that way,” Blumenthal said of Gorsuch. “I said they were more than disheartening and I said to him that he has an obligation to make his views clear to the American people, so they understand how abhorrent or unacceptable President Trump’s attacks on the judiciary are.”

Ron Bonjean, who is leading communications for Gorsuch during the confirmation process, confirmed Gorsuch called Trump’s tweet about the “so-called judge” “disheartening” and “demoralizing” in his conversation with Blumenthal…

Gorsuch told Schumer in a meeting Tuesday that an attack on his fellow judges is an attack on all, and he said he is incredibly disheartened when people attack his fellow judges, according to a source familiar with the discussion who paraphrased the judge’s comments. He also told Schumer that judges are used to being criticized and are no one’s lackeys.

Here’s the tweet that supposedly irked Gorsuch, which isn’t the only instance of Trump grumbling about judges on Twitter lately. In another tweet, he all but blamed Robart preemptively for any terror attacks America suffers while the travel ban is suspended.

One theory kicking around tonight is that this was mere strategy on Gorsuch’s part, knowing that any sour note he sounds about Trump will make Democrats more likely to vote to confirm him. I don’t buy it. The point of nominating him instead of, say, William Pryor is that he’s already eminently confirmable. At least nine Democrats were on record this morning, before he criticized Trump, as saying that they think he deserves an up-or-down vote, which is their way of hinting that there won’t be a filibuster. And no one doubts that if Schumer succeeded in clawing back a few of those wayward Dems and mounting a filibuster anyway, McConnell would blow it up (or do an end-around it via the “two-speech rule”) to get Gorsuch through. Gorsuch simply doesn’t need to smack Trump to make it onto the Court. On the contrary, given Trump’s vanity, criticizing him reduces his odds of becoming a justice by tempting Trump to yank the nomination before Gorsuch is confirmed. I don’t think he’d do that — it would make him look unspeakably petty and would amount to an admission that he had made a mistake in selecting Gorsuch — but the odds are greater of Trump tanking his chances at this point than Democrats doing so.

Trump superfans like Laura Ingraham are annoyed:

Maybe it’s a sign that he really did find Trump’s attacks on Robart disheartening and wasn’t willing to pretend otherwise just because a sweet job offer is on the line. He’s not being nominated for a position in the executive branch, remember; he’s already part of an independent branch that’s supposed to check the president when he exceeds his power. Go figure that he’d stick up for a colleague when a more political branch is bringing public pressure on him and other judges in interpreting the law. If there’s any strategy by Gorsuch in his criticism of Trump, I think it’s that he’s trying to serve notice that he’ll be a fully independent justice on the Court, beholden to no one. That sounds good to a conservative or libertarian who worries about executive overreach but obviously won’t sound good to the White House.

Here’s Trump grumbling about judges in a speech this morning. Incidentally, it’d be fascinating to watch the politics play out in the Senate if Trump decided to withdraw Gorsuch’s nomination to punish him for his criticism. Would Senate Republicans agree to confirm whomever Trump replaced Gorsuch with or would some, like Lindsey Graham, protest Trump punishing Gorsuch for his show of independence by refusing to confirm anyone but Gorsuch? All it would take is three Republicans to make life difficult for Trump and McConnell. Which is probably why the nomination won’t be yanked after all.