The Washington Post is reporting that President Trump considered withdrawing Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court last winter. When Gorsuch tepidly criticized Trump’s assault on the judiciary, the president was furious that the nominee was not showing the personal loyalty Trump expects from his nominees, judicial ones included. The Post reports:
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.
Trump’s aides assured him that he shouldn’t read anything into Gorsuch’s “criticism.” One of the article’s sources:
largely faults the White House for failing to adequately prepare Trump for Gorsuch’s comments and to explain that Supreme Court nominees asserting their independence from the president who appointed them was a natural part of a successful confirmation process.
In other words: Don’t worry, it’s just a show to make himself look independent from you so he can be confirmed.
But Trump didn’t calm down until his staff showed him a previously undelivered letter Gorsuch had written before the incident that Trump had misinterpreted as an absence of personal loyalty to him:
The team you have assembled to assist me in the Senate is remarkable and inspiring,” [Gorsuch] wrote. “I see daily their love of country and our Constitution, and know it is a tribute to you and your leadership for policy is always about personnel.
Another line in Gorsuch’s letter praised Trump’s address to Congress—a political speech that a future Supreme Court nominee ought not comment on, unless his personal loyalty to the leader supplants any loyalty he might have to an independent judiciary.
“Your address to Congress was magnificent,” Gorsuch wrote. “And you were so kind to recognize Mrs. Scalia, remember the justice, and mention me. My teenage daughters were cheering the TV!”
Gorsuch’s letter is far, far beyond what might be needed to be polite. They are the words of a sycophant. And they persuaded Trump that the future Supreme Court justice would demonstrate his loyalty on the bench.
In the first few months after his confirmation, Gorsuch has demonstrated that loyalty:
One of his first public speeches was to a conservative scholarship organization that held its luncheon meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the subject of a lawsuit alleging that payments to Trump’s companies violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
I’m sure the president was reassured by the message Gorsuch was sending, a message quite disturbing to supporters of an independent judiciary.