I explained the other day why Judge Gorsuch’s mild criticism of Pres. Trump’s statements about judges made for smart politics: mild enough so that Trump would not take offense, but strong enough to give him something credible to say when pushed by Democrats at upcoming hearings on Trump. I suggested the remarks were vetted before he said them, despite the President saying the remarks (reported by Sen. Blumenthal) were not true. (Trump said this after those shepherding J. Gorsuch confirmed the remarks).
Well the NY Times seems to confirm both the vetting and Trump interfering with the choreography:
The White House’s statements upended what had appeared to be a carefully calculated effort by Judge Gorsuch to gently distance himself from Mr. Trump’s attacks — what some observers saw as an attempt to blunt Democrats’ concerns about whether the judge would stand up to what they call Mr. Trump’s overreach.
While Judge Gorsuch may be working to allay those concerns — under the current Senate rules, he needs some Democratic support to be confirmed — Mr. Trump’s Twitter post and Mr. Spicer’s denials confirmed the worst suspicions of Democrats who were already bent on transforming the process into a referendum on the president….
Veterans of the Supreme Court confirmation process note that the ritual of private meetings with senators is almost completely staged for minimum controversy and maximum impact, with questions discussed in advance, answers honed and rehearsed, and no remark made unless it is intended to withstand public scrutiny.
“You don’t want any surprises, so there’s nothing that you don’t prepare for going into a meeting,” said Stephanie Cutter, a top Obama administration official who shepherded the nomination of Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “They knew this question would be coming, and they would have practiced an answer, and this was what he planned to say.”
Ms. Cutter recalled preparing Justice Sotomayor for a meeting with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, then the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in which she worked to explain her remarks that that a “wise Latina woman” could reach a “better” decision than a white man. Mr. Leahy left the meeting and promptly repeated the explanation to the assembled reporters, an effort to dispense with the issue before she came before the Senate for confirmation hearings.
“This might have been an attempt to make him look more independent,” Ms. Cutter said of Judge Gorsuch. “He could have created a story line about standing up to Trump.”
But the denials on Thursday were at odds with that narrative. Democrats were quick to jump on them as proof that Judge Gorsuch lacked judicial independence.