Republican Sen. Ben Sasse confirmed Thursday that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, while in a private meeting with him, decried President Donald Trump's attacks on a federal judge that blocked his executive order on travel from the Middle East, echoing comments made by a Connecticut senator who came under fire from the president
"Disheartening is a great word," the Nebraska Republican told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "Frankly, he got pretty passionate about it. I asked him about the so-called judge's comment, because we don't have so-called judges or so-called presidents or so-called senators."
Gorsuch "kind of welled up with some energy and he said any attack on any — I think his term to me was 'an attack on brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges,'" said Sasse. "He believes in an independent judiciary. I think what I saw in that guy is he has got some energy about it."
He also believes that Gorsuch would have the same opinion no matter what his position might be.
"This isn't about somebody who was just nominated to the Supreme Court," Sasse said. "This is a guy, if he were on traffic court in Colorado or in Nebraska, he would have the same view. He understands why we have three branches and, frankly, it seems to me that is a good reason why his nomination shouldn't be politicized. He is a warrior for a constitutional system of executive constraints and limits."
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, however, who has sat in on the Gorsuch's meetings with senators and is helping with his confirmation process, said in a statement Thursday that the nominee did call attacks on judges' independence "disheartening," but that he wasn't referencing Trump's comments in particular, CNBC reports.
"Judge Gorsuch has made it very clear in all of his discussions with senators, including Sen. Blumenthal, that he could not comment on any specific cases and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters," she said.
"He has also emphasized the importance of an independent judiciary, and while he made clear that he was not referring to any specific case, he said that he finds any criticism of a judge's integrity and independence disheartening and demoralizing."
On Wednesday, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said that during a meeting with Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee told him that Trump's comments about Seattle federal Judge James Robart, who blocked his orders on immigration were "disheartening" and "demoralizing."
Blumenthal told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program, after Sasse appeared, that Gorsuch told him "unbidden" that 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.
"You just heard from my colleague, Ben Sasse, who was a Republican, so we are in bipartisan agreement on this point, how emotional and heartfelt he was in asserting his independence and the importance of the judiciary's independence," Blumenthal said.
"He feels deeply about the independence of the American judiciary. That's why I think it is all the more important that he talk publicly to the American people about it...the court system is an essential branch of our government."
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