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It’s a safe bet that US Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, would never willingly play along with a ruse to help President Trump or his nominee for the US Supreme Court. And we may never know whether Trump’s team purposefully manufactured a controversy between his court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, and the president, in hopes of boosting his confirmation.
But what should be clear is that soon after Blumenthal told the press that, in a private meeting with Gorsuch, the nominee suggested that Trump’s tweets hitting the court system were “disheartening,” his words are being used by Trump for maximum political impact.
Sure, anyone watching Trump’s Twitter feed Thursday morning might get the impression that the president was upset over Blumenthal’s leak. Trump attacked Blumenthal personally and said the senator had misrepresented what Gorsuch told him.
However, Gorsuch’s own aides, including former US senator Kelly Ayotte, who is guiding the nomination, confirmed that it is pretty much what Gorsuch said.
It is unclear where the Gorsuch nomination stands in the Senate. It is even unclear whether procedurally Gorsuch will need 51 votes or 60 votes to make it onto the court. This week two of Trump’s Cabinet nominees squeaked by the Senate: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received 51 votes and Attorney General Jeff Sessions received 52 votes (though he abstained from voting for himself.)
Anything that can move Gorsuch closer to the middle and politically away from Trump, even if it is really just a nonpartisan defense of three branches of government, is a smart play.
Trump’s team likely knows this. The Democratic National Committee now recognizes this.
It’s good politics.James Pindell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics.