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Trump says Gorsuch was 'misrepresented'

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Supreme Court nominee's comments on US President's tweets on judge who suspended travel ban provokes yet another Twitter tirade

WASHINGTON: US President Mr Donald Trump has now disputed accounts that his Supreme Court pick Neil Gorsuch was disheartened, saying the judge's comments were misrepresented.

Mr Trump's Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch on Wednesday described as "demoralising" and "disheartening" the US President's Twitter attacks on a judge who suspended a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, according to his spokesman.

Mr Gorsuch's comments came as a federal appeals court in San Francisco was expected to decide in the coming days on the narrow question of whether US District Judge James Robart acted properly in temporarily halting enforcement of Mr Trump's ban.

A Republican strategist hired by the White House to help guide Mr Gorsuch's nomination through the US Senate said that Mr Gorsuch, himself an appeals court judge, used those words when he met Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal.

Mr Trump, offered no evidence of his latest claim and took a swipe at Mr Blumenthal in a Twitter post early yesterday.

"Senator Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?" Trump wrote.

As a Senate candidate in 2010, Mr Blumenthal came under fire after the New York Times quoted him in a speech saying he "served in Vietnam" and posted the audio on its website. Mr Blumenthal said he had used "misplaced words" about his Vietnam service, but never meant to deceive voters.

Mr Trump also took to Twitter over the weekend to condemn last Friday night's order by Mr Robart that placed on hold the president's Jan 27 temporary travel ban on people from the seven countries and all refugees.

Mr Trump called Mr Robart a "so-called judge" whose "ridiculous" opinion "essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country".

Mr Trump's administration appealed Mr Robart's ruling to a three-judge federal appeals panel, which heard oral arguments on Tuesday.

Presidents are usually hesitant to weigh in on judicial matters out of respect for the US Constitution, which ensures a separation of powers among the president's executive branch, Congress and the judiciary.

The Republican-led Senate on Wednesday confirmed immigration hardliner Republican Senator Jeff Sessions to be the next attorney general despite strong opposition from the Democratic Party (see report on page 14).

Mr Trump says his executive order aims to head off attacks by Islamist militants. The order, the most divisive act of Mr Trump's young presidency, sparked protests and chaos at US and overseas airports. Critics said the ban unfairly targeted people for their religion.

"I don't ever want to call a court biased," Mr Trump told hundreds of police chiefs and sheriffs from major cities at a meeting in a Washington hotel on Wednesday. "So I won't call it biased. And we haven't had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political."

Mr Trump nominated Mr Gorsuch on Jan 31 to succeed conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on the nine-member Supreme Court. Justice Scalia died a year ago.

Mr Blumenthal, a member of the Judiciary Committee that will hold a confirmation hearing on Mr Gorsuch, said the nominee had a responsibility to reassure Americans that he would be an open-minded and independent jurist by going public with his concerns about Mr Trump.

The appeals court decision on whether to reinstate the ban, will be just a first step in a fast-moving case.The matter is likely to go to the US Supreme Court, which is ideologically split with four liberal justices and four conservatives pending Senate action on Mr Trump's nomination of Mr Gorsuch.

State Department figures showed that 480 refugees had been admitted since Judge Robart's order went into effect, including 168 on Wednesday.

Of those admitted, 198 were from war-torn Syria. - REUTERS