Saturday 18 November 2017

Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee blasts president's 'demoralising' attacks on judges

Donald Trump applauds as he stands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after announcing him as his nominee for the Supreme Court (AP)
Donald Trump applauds as he stands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after announcing him as his nominee for the Supreme Court (AP) Newsdesk Newsdesk

Donald Trump has been rebuked by his nominee for the US Supreme Court for his extended criticism of the judiciary.

Judge Neil Gorsuch told a senator the US president's comments were "demoralising and disheartening".

Judge Gorsuch, nominated by Mr Trump to the nation's high court last week, made the comments after the president accused an appeal court considering his immigration and refugee ban order of being "so political".

Mr Trump also labelled a judge who ruled on his executive order a "so-called judge" and referred to the ruling as "ridiculous".

Judge Gorsuch's comments came at the end of his first full week of meetings in the Senate, which is considering his nomination.

His response may have been aimed at drawing a line of separation from the new president, who has been a politically polarising figure among Democrats in a highly-charged partisan fight over the court.

Before the judge's meeting on Capitol Hill, Mr Trump slammed the court that is deliberating his immigration and refugee executive order, telling a group of police chiefs that the immigration order was "done for the security of our nation".

He quoted from the portion of the immigration law that he said gave him the power to enact the ban, calling it "beautifully written" and saying "a bad high school student would understand this".

"Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right," he said.

"And that has to do with the security of our country, which is so important."

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the appeal of his executive order on immigration, including a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

In a hearing on Tuesday, the court's judges challenged the administration's claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but also questioned a lawyer's argument that it targeted Muslims unconstitutionally.

Since a lower-court judge blocked the order last week, Mr Trump has attacked the decision, prompting legal experts, Democrats and some Republicans to question whether the president's remarks might jeopardise the independence of the judiciary.

Others have expressed fears he may be attempting to use political influence to sway the courts.

Judge Gorsuch joined the criticism in a meeting with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Mr Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, said Judge Gorsuch described the president's comments about the judiciary as "demoralising and disheartening" and Judge Gorsuch's confirmation team validated the judge's comments.

Mr Blumenthal told reporters that he had told the judge he would need to condemn Mr Trump's attacks on judicial independence publicly.

"It needs to be a strong condemnation and that kind of public condemnation is important to establish his independence," Mr Blumenthal said.

"Otherwise, the American public will conclude that he is more likely to be a rubber stamp."

In his speech, Mr Trump sought to link his comments about the court battle over his executive order to the law enforcement community in attendance.

"We have to allow you to do your job," he said.

"And we have to give you the weapons that you need, and this is a weapon that you need and they're trying to take it away from you."

The president has repeatedly said people are "pouring in" since the ban was put on hold and suggested that blocking the order would be dangerous for US citizens.

On Wednesday morning he tweeted: "Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable, as we wait for what should be EASY D!"

The administration has not provided any information to support his claims.

Customs and Border Protection, the agency in charge of screening people who arrive at US ports, including airports, has not responded to multiple requests to give details on how many visa-holders from the seven designated countries have been allowed into the United States since a federal judge temporarily blocked the government from implementing the travel ban.

The State Department previously said fewer than 60,000 visas were provisionally revoked after the order was signed and those people would now be allowed to travel to the US.

Mr Trump's order banned travel to the US for people from Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen and Libya and also suspended the country's refugee global programme.

As of Wednesday afternoon 641 refugees from 13 countries, including five whose citizens were barred from the US under the travel ban, had arrived since a federal judge in Washington ruled against the government.

During his meeting with police leaders, Mr Trump also continued his promises to reduce violence in Chicago, saying that "no one in America should be punished" because of their birthplace.

He pledged to provide resources to police departments and promised "zero tolerance" for violence against law enforcement.

Mr Trump also promised to work on combating drug abuse and said there should be resources to deal with a "mental health crisis".

Hundreds of members of the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriff's Association were in the crowd, some in uniform but the majority in plain clothes.

They took photos with their phones as the president spoke, but clapped sparingly when he asked whether they agreed with his views on the immigration ban.

His comments about combating drug abuse and the targeting of police officers drew a more unanimous response from the crowd.

Press Association

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