US Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch says the recent criticism of federal judges was "disheartening."
President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, stated repeatedly at his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that "no man is above the law," as senators grilled him on his willingness to take on the nation's commander-in-chief.
Though he largely steered clear of political landmines, Gorsuch suggested it was "disheartening" and "demoralising" when Trump dismissed James Robart as a "so-called judge" after he ruled against the White House travel ban in federal court.
The hearing unfolded along partisan lines in the second day of questioning, with Democrats sceptical that the 49-year-old judge will protect civil liberties and social progress.
If confirmed, Gorsuch — a federal appeals judge for the past decade — would fill the seat left vacant by conservative Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016 in the middle of the presidential election campaign.
Since that time, the court has been operating with eight justices, and Democrats are still bitter over Republicans' refusal to even consider Barack Obama's nominee.
"No man is above the law"
Pressed by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy on whether the president could operate with impunity on matters such as national security, torture or surveillance, Gorsuch each time replied, "Senator, no man is above the law."
"Nobody is above the law in this country, and that includes the president of the United States," he added.
When asked if he was a surrogate for Trump or certain interest groups, Gorsuch responded simply, "No."
"I have no difficulty ruling for or against any party, based on what the laws and facts in the particular case require," he said earlier in the hearing.
Democrats are intent on pushing Gorsuch to expand on his approach to hot-button issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage and the right to bear arms.
But in keeping with tradition, Gorsuch was steadfast in declining to reveal his personal views on landmark Supreme Court decisions or speculate on how he would rule in certain hypothetical situations, since that would mar his impartiality for deciding future cases.