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Published: Tuesday, March 21, 2017 @ 6:26 PM
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch vowed to uphold the law if confirmed to the nation's highest court, not tipping his hand as he sidestepped controversial political subjects, as Gorsuch directly pushed back against President Donald Trump's criticism of federal judges.
"When anyone criticizes the honesty or integrity, the motives of a federal judge, I find that disheartening; I find that demoralizing," Gorsuch said in response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).
"Anyone including the President of the United States?" Blumenthal pressed.
"Anyone is anyone," Gorsuch replied.
In a day of testimony that stretched for almost twelve hours, Gorsuch parried most questions from Democrats, who tried in vain to get him to reveal his views on issues like abortion, and items that might come before the Supreme Court, like President Trump's travel ban.
Gorsuch repeatedly refused to take the bait.
"I can't get involved in politics, and I think it would be very imprudent of judges to start commenting on political disputes," Gorsuch said.
Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Gorsuch was asked what he had discussed with President Trump on the issue of abortion.
"In that interview did he ever ask you to overrule Roe v Wade?" Graham asked.
"No, Senator," Gorsuch replied, adding that if the President had asked that question, "I would have walked out the door."
Gorsuch was pressed about the President in a number of different ways, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that, "nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the President of the United States."
With Republicans strongly in support of Gorsuch, there was already maneuvering behind the scenes over the expected floor fight in the Senate, as Democrats have made clear they think the GOP should be forced to get 60 votes for his nomination.
That has prompted GOP leaders to criticize the threat of a filibuster.
"If there aren't 60 votes for a nominee like Neil Gorsuch it's appropriate to ask the question is there any nominee any Republican president could make that Democrats would approve," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Gorsuch's lengthy day of testimony ended on a light note, as Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) suggested to Gorsuch that he have a cocktail before bed.
"Just don't drink vodka," Kennedy said to chuckles from the audience.
Kennedy then drew even more laughter by adding in one more surprise.
"You never been to Russia, have you?"
"I've never been to Russia," a smiling Gorsuch said.