People For the American Way

Judicial Independence ≠ Crumpling Under Trump’s Pressure

News and Analysis

Just in case anyone out there seriously thought Judge Neil Gorsuch would have the necessary independence to serve on the Supreme Court, events of the past two days surely have disabused them of that notion.

Conservatives have excitedly pointed to Gorsuch’s milquetoast criticism of Donald Trump as showing his independence, but when Trump day after day attacked the very concept of a judiciary that doesn’t defer to him, all Gorsuch could muster up in a meeting with Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal was to call the president’s comments “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Oooh, tough words in response to a presidential attack against the very foundation of our judiciary system that was established to protect our rights and liberties.  Blumenthal’s report of Gorsuch’s kittenish criticism was confirmed by Ron Bonjean, the Republican operative who is handling Gorsuch’s communications effort.

But Trump was furious, slamming Blumenthal for “misrepresent[ing] what Judge Gorsuch told him.”

So the White House started walking the story back, saying that Gorsuch hadn’t been criticizing Trump at all.  Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who has been in charge of leading Gorsuch’s senate visits, stated:

Judge Gorsuch has made it very clear in all of his discussions with senators, including Senator Blumenthal, that he could not comment on any specific cases and that judicial ethics prevent him from commenting on political matters. … 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.

By the end of the day, Kellyanne Conway was assuring viewers of Fox News that Gorsuch and Trump “support each other.”

And we’ve heard no contradiction of the White House’s story from Judge Gorsuch.  He knows that Trump regarded even his mild “criticism” of the president’s assault on the federal judicial system as over the line.  Clearly, Gorsuch has gotten the messagecriticizing the president is simply not acceptable.

So this week, we saw a real-time example of how Judge Gorsuch would stand up to political pressure from Donald Trump if confirmed: He won’t.  In his very first test, Gorsuch crumbled before the pressure put on him by the president, clearly willing to toss the courts’ (and his own) integrity out the window upon executive command.

America cannot afford to let Neil Gorsuch serve on our nation’s highest court.