Donald Trump has questioned the credibility of a Democratic senator after he relayed comments by the US president's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, expressing concern over recent attacks on the federal judiciary.
On Wednesday (8 February), Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal revealed that Gorsuch described the president's criticism of the judiciary as "disheartening" and "demoralising".
Trump's attacks on judges have come after his temporary travel ban was blocked. In one instance, the president questioned the legitimacy of a judge who temporarily halted the enforcement of the immigration ban, calling him a "so-called judge".
On Thursday (9 February), Trump lashed out at Blumenthal's military record, tweeting: "Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?"
The "major lie" Trump was referring to dates back to 2010 when he was forced to acknowledge that he had served "during" the Vietnam War rather than "in" it as he had previously claimed several times.
"On a few occasions I have misspoken about my service, and I regret that and I take full responsibility," Blumenthal was quoted as saying in 2010 by the Washington Post. "But I will not allow anyone to take a few misplaced words and impugn my record of service to our country."
In spite of the president's criticism of Blumenthal, his report was corroborated by several sources, including Gorsuch's spokesman, Ron Bonjean.
Former Senator Kelly Ayotte, who is assisting the Supreme Court nominee in his meeting with senators said: "He [Gorsuch] has also emphasised the importance of an independent judiciary, and while he made clear that he was not referring to any specific case, he said that he finds any criticism of a judge's integrity and independence disheartening and demoralising".
Blumenthal defended his account of Gorsuch's comments to CNN's Chris Cuomo and encouraged the judge to make the statements publicly. "I think that telling me that he finds these attacks to be demoralising or disheartening behind closed doors is not enough," said Blumenthal.
"He needs to make that statement publicly and condemn this attack on the independence of the judiciary and show the American people that he will be independent," he added.
Trump followed his tweet on Blumenthal up with a dig at Cuomo. Taking to the social media platform, he posted: "Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave 'service' in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!"
Cuomo picked up on Trump's tweet on air and replayed the first part of the interview in which he asked Blumenthal about misrepresenting his military record in the past. Cuomo stated: "The president with all due respect is once again off on the facts and that's not something that any of us have any desire to say on a regular basis but it keeps being true.
"Fake news is the worst thing that you can call a journalist. It's like an ethnic disparagement. You know, we all have these ugly words for people – that's the one for journalists."