WASHINGTON — Democratic senators pressed Judge Neil Gorsuch Wednesday to explain his views on issues such as the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” and the notion of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” questions designed to more aggressively probe his independence from President Trump.

Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, declined to answer several questions from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on legal concepts Trump’s critics have accused the president of violating.

Leahy also noted Gorsuch has strong support from Trump senior counselor Stephen Bannon, who he accused of “giving a platform to extremists and misogynists and racists.” Another senior Trump aide, Reince Priebus, had said Gorsuch could change potentially 40 years of law, Leahy said.


“What vision do you share with President Trump?” the senator asked.

“Respectfully, none of you speaks for me,” Gorsuch said. “I am a judge. I am independent. I make up my own mind.”


Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Gorsuch’s testimony as “pitifully short on substance” in a series of tweets.

“The qualifications for Senate confirmation shouldn’t be skillful evasion of questions, it’s not how the process is supposed to work,” Schumer wrote Wednesday.

Wednesday’s hearing marked what is likely the last day of testimony for Gorsuch before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he has made a particular effort to stress his independence from Trump.

At one point, Gorsuch seemed to reject a Feb. 13 comment from senior White House adviser Stephen Miller that Trump’s actions on national security “will not be questioned,” which some interpreted as a signal that Trump could ignore judicial orders.

“You better believe I expect judicial decrees to be obeyed,” Gorsuch said. He quoted an unnamed judge he called “one of his heroes”: “The real test of the rule of law is [whether] the government could lose in its own courts and accept those judgments.”

Still, some senators remained less than satisfied with his answers.


Under questioning from Leahy, Gorsuch dodged questions on the emoluments clause, which states the president cannot accept gifts from foreign agents without approval from Congress.


Gorsuch also declined to give his view on Scalia’s characterization of the Voting Rights Act as a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”

“Senator, I don’t speak for Justice Scalia. I speak for myself,” he said.

“You have been very hesitant to even talk about various Supreme Court precedents,” Leahy told Gorsuch, noting that Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito took positions on specific cases during their confirmation hearings.

Sen. John Cornyn, Texas, the Republican whip, rejected Leahy’s characterization.

“I don’t know what they’ve been listening to, what they’ve been paying to, if that’s their conclusion,” he said.

Gorsuch has refused to be pinned down on most of the issues that Democrats raised: Roe v. Wade, money in politics, and the Second Amendment.

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