A Democratic senator who lied about his military service for decades is now calling on his colleagues to thoroughly vet the background of President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), a member of the Senate committee that handles legal confirmation hearings, said that Appellate Court Judge Neil Gorsuch will face tough questions about his background. He said the Colorado-based judge will have "every aspect of his background" investigated by Democratic committee members before his nomination to the nation's highest court moves forward.
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"It is important that every aspect of his background be critically and closely scrutinized," Blumenthal told the Wall Street Journal.
Blumenthal singled out a report in the Journal that questioned whether Gorsuch participated in pro-bono legal programs while attending Harvard Law School. The newspaper spoke to six of his contemporaries who did not recall Gorsuch providing free legal services to inmates or the poor as a student. The report failed to note that five of the six sources had donated thousands of dollars to liberal candidates and causes.
Blumenthal said he expected the report to play a role in confirmation hearings.
"This issue goes to credibility and qualifications," Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal's own credibility has been called into question since he entered public life. When Blumenthal first ran for the Senate in 2010, the New York Times revealed that he had lied for years about fighting in the Vietnam War. Blumenthal repeatedly touted his supposed combat experience in speeches to veterans groups and civic organizations, saying he had "served in Vietnam."
However, a review of his military records revealed that he procured five deferments from the military before joining the Marine Reserve. During the war he traveled as far west as Washington, where he helped the Toys for Tots program, but never saw actual combat.
"What is striking about Mr. Blumenthal's record is the contrast between the many steps he took that allowed him to avoid Vietnam, and the misleading way he often speaks about that period of his life now, especially when he is speaking at veterans' ceremonies or other patriotic events," the Times reported.
Blumenthal claimed to have misspoken, though that did not explain his failure to correct the record when numerous media reports and profiles described him as a Vietnam veteran.
Blumenthal's office did not return requests for comment.
If confirmed, Judge Gorsuch would fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia's sudden death in February 2016. Already a majority of Democrats have vowed to filibuster the nominee in retribution for Republicans' refusal to hold hearings for D.C. Appellate Judge Merrick Garland, Obama's nominee to replace Scalia.
Blumenthal was one of six senators scheduled to meet Gorsuch on Wednesday and is one of just nine Democrats to intimate that he supported giving Gorsuch an up or down vote. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Nine Democratic votes would give Republicans enough support to hold a vote without changing Senate rules, which require a 60-vote majority to break a filibuster.