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Wednesday August 23rd, 2017 2:22AM

The Latest: John Elway writes letter supporting Gorsuch

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch (all times local):

3:25 p.m.

Of all the testimonials about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, this is the one that counts in Colorado — a letter of support from former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway.

In a letter dated Monday and sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Elway writes that Gorsuch "has demonstrated tremendous intelligence, character and fairness" as a federal appeals court judge based in Denver.

The letter says Gorsuch's "credentials, integrity and sound moral compass are major reasons why he's already received so much bipartisan support for his nomination."

The admiration is mutual.

In his opening statement on Monday, Gorsuch said: "In Colorado today there is God and John Elway and Peyton Manning."

Elway is general manager of the Broncos and revered after the football team won the Super Bowl in February 2016.

___

3:10 p.m.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is promising to be independent if confirmed to the high court.

In his opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, President Donald Trump's nominee said it is for Congress to make laws, for the executive to enforce them, "and for neutral and independent judges" to apply them.

He said that in his decade as a federal appeals court judge he tried to treat all fairly and with respect. He said he has decided cases for disabled students, prisoners and workers alleging civil rights violations.

Gorsuch said: "Sometimes, I have ruled against such persons too."

He said his decisions never reflected a judgment about the people before me, "only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case."

___

2:20 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is calling on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to publicly defend the independence of the federal judiciary.

At Gorsuch's confirmation hearing, Blumenthal said judicial independence is "more important than ever, and your defense of it is critical."

He noted a separate hearing Monday in which FBI Director James Comey said the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump, who nominated Gorsuch.

"If you fail to be explicit and forthcoming we have to assume you will pass the Trump litmus test," Blumenthal said.

Gorsuch has shown some willingness to be independent from Trump, telling Blumenthal in a private meeting that he found the president's attacks on the judiciary demoralizing. But Democrats have called on him to say it publicly.

___

1:40 p.m.

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is criticizing Democrats, complaining that they didn't ask former President Bill Clinton's Supreme Court nominees about a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him.

Cruz said Gorsuch is being asked to answer for "the actions and statements and even the tweets of the president who appointed him" — Republican Donald Trump.

In his courtesy calls with senators prior to the hearing, Gorsuch was asked about Trump's tweets about the judiciary after the president lashed out at the courts for blocking his travel and immigration ban.

Paula Jones filed suit against Clinton in 1994, the year after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was confirmed and just as Justice Stephen Breyer was nominated.

__

1:10 p.m.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham is criticizing the increasing partisanship in Senate consideration of judicial nominations.

Speaking at the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, Graham said he voted for both of Democratic President Barack Obama's choices.

He said he thought they "lived exemplary lives, quite frankly."

As Democrats have criticized Gorsuch's rulings, Graham said "now the shoe is on the other foot." He challenged Democrats to say Gorsuch isn't qualified.

He noted that in the past, justices were confirmed unanimously or with little dissent.

The current partisan climate "is going to destroy the judiciary over time," Graham said.

__

12:05 p.m.

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is criticizing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch because of his support from conservative interest groups that the Vermont lawmaker called "anti-choice, anti-environment and pro-corporate."

Gorsuch was recommended for the nomination by the conservative Federalist Society and others during last year's presidential campaign after Senate Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama's nominee, Merrick Garland. Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016 and the seat has remained vacant.

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch in February.

At the start of confirmation hearings on Monday, Leahy complained that Republicans had "made a big show last year about respecting the voice of the American people in this process."

Leahy said Republicans are now pressing to "rubber stamp a nominee selected by extreme interest groups." The Democrat also noted Gorsuch was nominated by Trump, who lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

___

11:50 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee says she is "deeply disappointed" that the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is beginning in the shadow of Republicans' decision to block the previous nominee for the seat.

If confirmed, Gorsuch would fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February 2016. Then-President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, but Republicans blocked him. Donald Trump then won the presidency and nominated Gorsuch.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein says Garland was "a mainstream moderate nominee," and Democrats' job now is "to decide whether Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable, mainstream conservative, or is he not."

Feinstein set out a list of issues that the Supreme Court could consider, including abortion, campaign finance, voting rights laws and gun control.

___

11:20 a.m.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley says his panel likely will cast a vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's nomination in two weeks, on April 3.

Grassley said the committee will first schedule a vote for next Monday, March 27. But he expects the vote to be held over a week, as committee rules allow any member to push it back.

Republicans have said they would like Gorsuch to be confirmed before Congress leaves for a two-week recess on April 7.

For Supreme Court nominations, the Judiciary panel has traditionally voted to recommend a nominee favorably or unfavorably, giving the full Senate the final say.

Gorsuch's four-day confirmation hearing began Monday morning. Senators will begin questioning the judge Tuesday.

___

11 a.m.

A Senate panel has opened confirmation hearings on Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court.

The panel's chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley, opened the first day of hearings on Monday. Colorado's two senators — Democrat Michael Bennet and Republican Cory Gardner — are introducing Gorsuch, a highly credentialed and conservative member of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gorsuch's nomination has been cheered by Republicans and praised by some left-leaning legal scholars. Democrats headed into the committee hearings divided over how hard to fight him.

The first day of the hearings will feature opening statements from senators and Gorsuch himself. Questioning will begin on Tuesday.

__

10:10 a.m.

In prepared remarks ahead of Monday's confirmation hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley says Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is the right person to maintain the "preservation of our constitutional order" and the separation of powers under the Constitution.

Grassley says Gorsuch's "body of professional work is defined by an unfailing commitment to these principles."

Republicans have criticized former President Barack Obama for overreach in using executive orders to get around Congress. Grassley says "separation of powers is just as critical today as it was during the last administration."

At the same time, Grassley tries to head off expected Democratic arguments that Gorsuch often ruled in favor of corporate plaintiffs. He says that's "an old claim" from "an even older playbook.".

__

3:30 a.m.

Thirteen months after Antonin Scalia's death created a vacancy on the Supreme Court, hearings get underway on President Donald Trump's nominee to replace him.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, is a respected, highly credentialed and conservative member of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. His nomination has been cheered by Republicans and praised by some left-leaning legal scholars, and Democrats head into the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Monday divided over how hard to fight him.

The nomination has been surprisingly low-key thus far in a Capitol distracted by Trump-driven controversies over wiretapping and Russian spying as well as attempts to pass a divisive health care bill. That will change this week as the hearings give Democratic senators a chance to press Gorsuch on issues like judicial independence, given Trump's attacks on the judiciary, as well as what they view as Gorsuch's own history of siding with corporations in his 10 years on the bench.

The first day of the hearings Monday will feature opening statements from senators and Gorsuch himself. Questioning will begin on Tuesday, and votes in committee and on the Senate floor are expected early next month.

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