The Washington Post has another Christmas present for the President and, as usual, it’s in the form of a lump of coal in his stocking. Since there apparently isn’t anything new on Russia, Russia, Russia to report, this time it’s a claim that Trump was grumpy over comments made by Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch during his confirmation process and “considered” pulling the nomination.
For nearly eight months, President Trump has boasted that appointing Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court ranks high among his signature achievements.
But earlier this year, Trump talked about rescinding Gorsuch’s nomination, venting angrily to advisers after his Supreme Court pick was critical of the president’s escalating attacks on the federal judiciary in private meetings with legislators.
Trump, according to several people with knowledge of the discussions, was upset that Gorsuch had pointedly distanced himself from the president in a private February meeting with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), telling the senator he found Trump’s repeated attacks on the federal judiciary “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
The president worried that Gorsuch would not be “loyal,” one of the people said, and told aides that he was tempted to pull Gorsuch’s nomination — and that he knew plenty of other judges who would want the job.
The Post is claiming that they have eleven sources for this “breaking news” but, of course, none of them are willing to attach their name to the claims. The White House is denying the story, with legislative affairs director Marc Short saying, “never did I view his nomination in jeopardy, nor did the president ever suggest to me that he wanted to pull him.” Justice Gorsuch is wisely declining to comment because members of our highest court aren’t supposed to be getting bogged down in politics and mudslinging.
This non-story is actually perfect for the Washington Post because it’s a grenade that can be launched with virtually no chance of being fully disproven. Trump had an “explosion” over it according to one source who won’t reveal their name or specific involvement in the confirmation process. The president felt that Gorsuch displayed “insufficient gratitude” according to another anonymous source. Trump was worried that Gorsuch, “would not be loyal.” Who said that? The quote is attributed to “one of the people” the Post spoke to. Perfect themes for them, portraying Trump as ill-tempered and demanding both unquestioning loyalty (echoes of Comey) and fawning gratitude.
Here’s a more likely scenario. It probably cropped up at the time when news broke that Richard Blumenthal met with Gorsuch in February and gleefully ran to the press to report that the nominee described Trump’s criticism of judges who ruled against the travel ban (criticism which was later validated by the Supreme Court) as “disheartening and demoralizing.” It’s not hard to imagine someone of the President’s temperament making an offhand comment along the lines of, well, that’s gratitude for you. And now, seven or eight months later, somebody looking to score points with the WaPo drops a dime and the story blows up from there. Putting Gorsuch on the bench was the first, big feather in Trump’s cap after being sworn in (aside from some executive orders) and to suggest that he was seriously thinking about yanking Gorsuch after nominating him boggles the imagination.
This is a good time to point the editorial board of the Washington Post to their pals over at the New York Times and a little project they had going back when Barack Obama was still in office. In July of last year, their associate managing editor for standards provided an update on their efforts to minimize the use of anonymous sources. Here’s part of it.
In the four months since we laid out the new policies, we’ve seen a measurable drop in the prevalence of anonymous sourcing. (Precise numbers are hard to nail down, but our estimate would be in the range of a 30 percent decrease.) That’s good news since one goal of the new guidelines was to raise the bar overall on the use of such sourcing.
Anecdotally, I also detect a greater awareness of the issue and heightened scrutiny by editors throughout the newsroom. This is crucial, since our most important objective is to ensure that use of anonymous sources is not routine, but is always subject to scrutiny and questioning.
Not routine, but always subject to scrutiny and questioning. Man, those were the days, huh? But now, anonymous sources probably account for fully half of the big gotcha stories coming out about the White House. Another tale of caveat emptor I suppose.