Why Gorsuch’s criticism of Donald Trump may be just what he needs for confirmation

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch called President Donald Trump's attack on a federal judge "disheartening" and "demoralizing" in private meetings with senators on Capitol Hill on Wednesday — the news of which quickly leaked to the public and was confirmed by a White House spokesperson running communications for Gorsuch's nomination process.

And while Trump attacked the leak of Gorsuch's comments, they might be exactly what Gorsuch needs to build support for his nomination.

Let us explain: Gorsuch will have a few hurdles to clear in order to gain Democratic support for his nomination — which, per current Senate rules, will need Democratic crossover votes in order to proceed.

And while he may not be able to convince Senate Democrats still fuming from the GOP's refusal to give former President Barack Obama's SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing, Gorsuch showing he's unafraid to stand up to Trump could cast him in a more moderate light.

Standing up to Trump's actions and supporting an independent judiciary has become a topic of great importance to Democrats and anti-Trump forces in recent weeks, after Trump attacked the impartiality of the federal court system — which so far has blocked his executive order that temporarily bans nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

And by exhibiting a willingness to criticize Trump's actions and stand up for the importance of an independent judiciary system, Gorsuch could be trying to ease those concerns, both among lawmakers and the public at large. 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), who initially revealed Gorsuch's comments to the public, told Morning Joe Thursday morning that Gorsuch "specifically" told him to "feel free to mention what I said about these attacks being disheartening."

Because Gorsuch's comments could grow support for his nomination, some Democrats — including a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee — are now saying Gorsuch's words were "meaningless" and a "ruse" crafted by the White House.

"While Donald Trump's morning tweets show Steve Bannon may not have clued him in on the ruse, this is clearly a meaningless White House orchestrated attempt to help Judge Gorsuch pretend he won't be a rubber stamp for the Trump Administration," DNC spokesman Zac Petkanas said in a statement. 

"As Sen. Blumenthal made clear, Gorsuch's suspicious private criticism is not nearly enough to prove he'll fulfill his duty as a check on the concerning and unconstitutional behavior of the president."

Still, Trump — who has shown a penchant for picking fights with those he feels have attacked him — is continuing to step on Gorsuch's message.

During a "Supreme Court listening session" at the White House with some crucial Democratic Senators whose vote Trump would need to break a filibuster on Gorsuch, he again said Gorsuch's comments were "misrepresented" — despite the fact that Gorsuch's team says they were not. 

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Emily C. Singer

Emily C. Singer, née Cahn, is a senior writer for Mic covering politics. She is based in New York and can be reached at esinger@mic.com

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