WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump sought Thursday to challenge the credibility of Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who had said Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch relayed in a private meeting that Trump’s comments on the judiciary were “demoralizing” and “disheartening.”
“His comments were misrepresented and what you should do is ask Senator Blumenthal about his Vietnam record that didn’t exist after years of saying it did,” Trump told reporters at a bipartisan meeting of senators supporting his Supreme Court pick.
Trump, in a tweet Saturday, called U.S. District Judge James Robart of Seattle, who issued a temporary restraining order against the president’s executive order temporarily barring refugees and nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries, a “so-called judge.”
On Wednesday, Trump said of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which was considering the administration’s appeal to lift the ban: “It’s really incredible to me that we have a court case that’s going on so long . . . A bad high school student would understand this.”
Thursday, Trump cited statements by Blumenthal in 2008 that he had served in the U.S. military in Vietnam.
Blumenthal never served in Vietnam, obtaining at least five military deferments from 1965 to 1970, and took repeated steps that enabled him to avoid going to war, The New York Times has reported. Blumenthal said he had misspoken about his record.
Trump called out Blumenthal’s “major lie” in a tweet Thursday.
Blumenthal’s account of the conversation with Gorsuch was confirmed by multiple people.
Former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who is helping Gorsuch through the confirmation process, backed up the judge’s characterization, although her reading was broader than Blumenthal’s.
“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,” Ayotte said in a statement.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who also met privately with Gorsuch, said the judge was responding to a question about Trump’s “so-called judge” tweet and backed up Blumenthal’s account.
“He got pretty passionate about it,” Sasse told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Sasse said Gorsuch “ . . . said any attack on any . . . brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges, and he believes in an independent judiciary.”
Also Thursday, Trump targeted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a Vietnam War veteran and former prisoner of war, for saying a recent U.S.-led raid in Yemen, in which a U.S. commando was killed, couldn’t be characterized as a “success.”
“Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy! He’s been losing so long he doesn’t know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in — bogged down in conflict all over the place,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Our hero Ryan died on a winning mission (according to General Mattis), not a ‘failure.’ ”
Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, was killed in a firefight during the mission.
McCain’s daughter, Megan, defended her father on Twitter, writing, “Trump has never served. My father can’t bend one of his knees or lift one of his arms above his head. I am done with this today. DONE.”