Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Thursday that Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch told him, "unbidden," to feel free to reveal that he finds President Donald Trump's attacks on the judiciary to be "disheartening and demoralizing," even though the comments occurred during a private conversation and behind closed doors.
"Judge Gorsuch specifically said 'you should feel free to mention what I said about these attacks being disheartening and demoralizing,'" the Connecticut Democrat told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "It was unbidden. He said to feel free to 'talk about what I said.'"
Gorsuch urged the release, Blumenthal believes, because "he feels deeply about the independence of the American judiciary," Blumenthal said. "That's why I think it is all the more important that he talk publicly to the American people about it...they need to understand what you have been saying just this morning and repeatedly before that the court system is an essential branch of our government. Its independence is a core principle of our Constitution and an attack by the president of the United States on this, goes to the heart of our democratic freedoms."
Courts are starting to stand up to Trump's "bullying and blustering tactics," Blumenthal continued.
"I suggest, respectfully, Donald Trump needs to be better informed of what his nominee said to all of us on Capitol Hill," the senator told the program.
Further, Blumenthal said that had anyone else denounced and attacked courts the way Trump did while a case was still active, "he would have been held in contempt of court. It really is a contempt of our judicial system for President Trump to make these comments."
Blumenthal also appeared on CNN's "New Day" program, where he called on Gorsuch to make his comments on Trump's criticism of a Seattle federal judge public.
"There's no question that Judge Gorsuch said to me that he found these attacks on the judiciary by the president to be disheartening and demoralizing," Blumenthal told CNN's Chris Cuomo, appearing on the program after Trump took to Twitter to accuse him of misconstruing the nominee's statements.
Trump earlier on Thursday attacked Blumenthal for the initial report that Gorsuch had expressed disappointment, tweeting that the Senator he mischaracterized comments made by Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and pointing out the senator told a "major lie" about serving in Vietnam.
After Blumenthal appeared on CNN, Trump returned to Twitter for another attack:
"In fact, his spokesperson after the meeting confirmed it," Blumenthal continued. "He made the statement more than once. In fact, he has made that same statement to a number of my colleagues, including [Senate Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer."
The Connecticut Democrat said Wednesday that during a meeting with Gorsuch, the federal judge told him that Trump's comments about a Seattle judge who blocked his orders on immigration were "disheartening" and "demoralizing."
"But I think that telling me that he finds these attacks to be demoralizing or disheartening behind closed doors is not enough," Blumenthal told CNN Thursday. "He needs to make that statement publicly and condemn this attack on the independence of the judiciary and show the American people that he will be independent."
Meanwhile, Blumenthal told CNN that he believes that the United States is "careening, literally, towards a Constitutional crisis," and that Gorsuch has been nominated to the Supreme Court "by a president who has repeatedly and relentlessly attacked the American judiciary on three separate occasions...he's established a litmus test for his nominee to be pro-life, to be pro-Second Amendment, to be conservative."
Blumenthal also told CNN he hopes Gorsuch will publicly condemn Trump's attacks on Seattle federal court Judge James Robart, who enacted a hold on the president's executive order on immigration and travel from the Middle East.
"My hope is that he will, in fact, on reflection, condemn these attacks on the American unprecedented for a president to make, and he will be more explicit because he has to show the American people that he's not only disappointed in President Trump's attacks...he has to show the American people he'll be more than a rubber stamp for Donald Trump," said Blumenthal.
Blumenthal, while on CNN, insisted that he accurately stated what Gorsuch said to him, and that other colleagues had heard the same things in their own private meetings.
Ron Bonjean, who is handling Gorsuch's communications duties during the confirmation proceedings, confirmed the comments to CNN, saying Gorsuch had used the words "disheartening" and "demoralizing during the conversation.
Blumenthal, though, would not comment to CNN about Trump's tweet attack, saying he was "not about to try to explain the president's tweets."
On MSNBC, Blumenthal did comment on Trump's assertion that he had lied on Vietnam, telling show co-host Willie Geist that nobody needs to believe only him about the comments, when there were several White House staffers in the room, and because Gorsuch made the same comments to several other senators during private conversations.
Blumenthal also on Thursday said there was more of the conversation that raised red flags with him during the conversation, including his "lack of specificity in response to a number of my questions" on issues such as Roe V. Wade.
"We talked lawyer talk," said Blumenthal. "We talked about our families, his love for the outdoors and physical exercise, which we share. It was an amicable meeting."
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