President Donald Trump reportedly mused about rescinding Justice Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court just days after the appointment was announced, after Gorsuch criticized the president in a private meeting with a Democratic lawmaker.
The Washington Post reports that an incredulous Trump told aides he was inclined to revoke the nomination after Gorsuch told Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that he found the president’s heated attacks on judges blocking implementation of his travel ban “disheartening” and “demoralizing.” It is unclear how seriously the president was entertaining the notion, WaPo reported, citing 11 sources familiar with the situation. The White House denied that Trump ever seriously considered withdrawing the Gorsuch appointment.
“The president’s nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch was among his first and most important accomplishments during his first year in office, and delivered on a major campaign promise,” White House spokesman Raj Shah said. “At no point did the president consider withdrawing Justice Gorsuch’s nomination. He is very proud of the accomplishment.”
Trump himself vigorously denied WaPo’s story in a Tuesday morning tweet.
Gorsuch’s comments, on which he declined to elaborate publicly, were likely part of a bid to prove his autonomy from the White House. Senate Democrats peppered the judge with questions about judicial independence throughout the confirmation process. Such questions are typical of the opposition party during a Supreme Court confirmation.
The president also allegedly took Gorsuch’s remarks as a signal that the judge privately held liberal legal views, fearing he would join the ranks of Republican appointees who advance progressive positions on the high court.
“He’s probably going to end up being a liberal like the rest of them,” Trump reportedly fumed to GOP lawmakers shortly after Blumenthal publicized the comments.
Such anxieties notwithstanding, Gorsuch has charted a decidedly conservative course since his confirmation. In his first months on the Court, he joined Justice Clarence Thomas in dissenting from the Court’s refusal to take up a landmark Second Amendment case from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, chided the Court for hastily reversing an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling that allowed the state to exclude non-biological LGBT parents from birth certificates, and has consistently voted to lift lower court injunctions barring enforcement of Trump’s travel sanctions.
The justice took a victory lap in November at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, telling a friendly audience that his nomination was proof that a dedicated originalist could secure confirmation to the Supreme Court.
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