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Grassley: Gorsuch willing to be a judge, not a legislator

March 20, 2017 at 6:35 PM EDT
What did the country learn about Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on opening day of his confirmation hearings? Judy Woodruff speaks with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, about Gorsuch’s judicial philosophy, how he compares to the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, plus the House hearing on the FBI’s investigations into Russian influence of the 2016 election
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JUDY WOODRUFF: And now to my conversation with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He’s Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

We spoke a short time ago. And I began by asking what the country learned about Judge Gorsuch today.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, R-Iowa: I think they learned that he is willing to be a judge, and not be a legislator, and I think he tells best what he’s up to when he says a judge that likes all his decisions isn’t a very good judge.

He’s getting back to the independence that a member of the judiciary branch needs to show if he’s going to truly be a referee within our governmental system. And he showed that very clearly by demonstrating that you should look at the facts of the days, look at the law and be dispassionate, in other words, leave your own personal views out of it.

And I think that’s reinforced by his writings very well. Of course, we’re going to go through this over the next 48 hours. But I believe what I’m telling you kind of sums up what we are going to know at the end of 48 hours.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, many Republicans say they want Judge Gorsuch to be as close as possible to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. He’s clearly a different person, but are his views different from those of Justice Scalia?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Well, I think the difference is only in the sense of degrees.

And I don’t know whether there has been enough comparison to his writings with Justice Scalia. But from the standpoint of being a strict constructionist of the Constitution and following the intent of Congress, and not legislating from the bench, I think, in that general way, he fits very well in with Scalia.

But, quite frankly, I don’t know whether anybody can replace Scalia.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we noticed, Senator Grassley, Democrats on the Judiciary Committee today said they’re concerned about Judge Gorsuch. Among other things, we heard Senator Pat Leahy say he’s got support from conservative interest groups that are anti-choice, anti-environment, pro-corporate.

Are these areas, though, that Republicans, conservatives are counting on him to reflect?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Well, I think that you’re not going to get any opinion out of him other than what he said in his cases, and I don’t think it’s fair to say that he’s pro one way and anti another way.

I think, in regard to corporate interests as an example, he’s been on both sides of it. He doesn’t have a philosophy that is easy to predict, except that he’s going to interpret the law and not read something into the law that Congress didn’t intend.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Your fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham today deplored the fact that there is increasing partisanship in Senate votes to confirm Supreme Court and other judicial nominees.

And it is the case, Senator, that the votes have been increasingly along party lines. Do you think Judge Gorsuch will end up winning Democratic votes?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: A few, but I don’t think very many. I think the base of the Democrat Party is very strongly wanting to demonstrate two things, one, that they may not approve of his approach to the law and the Constitution, and, secondly, they want to make a case that Garland should have been approved last year.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally, Senator Grassley, I want to ask you about the other big story of the day. It happened on the other side of the Capitol.

And that’s the FBI director, the head the National Security Agency testified before the House Intelligence Committee. The FBI director, Jim Comey, confirmed that his agency is looking into connections, any possible connections between the Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election and the Trump campaign.

He also said that there’s no evidence that President Obama ordered a wiretap of President Trump.

Overall, do you believe, do you have confidence that the FBI is going to get to the bottom of all this?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: I think it’s going to be very, very difficult and it’s going to go on for a long time.

But I do think that they should be just as vigorous in investigating the leak possibility as well, because that’s where national security could be at risk. And we talk all about investigating Trump or Trump people, but we — I don’t hear enough from them on investigating the leaks, which is a felony, if the person can be found.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you think the leaks are more important than any possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russian interference in the election?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Not at all. I think they’re both of equal importance.

But all I hear them talking about is the relationship between Trump people and Russia. I don’t hear anything about the breaking of leaks. And, in the first place, in regard to the relationship, there is a lot of accusations, but there’s — it was pretty clear today it didn’t lead to them believing that there was any connection between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think, finally, Senator, that the FBI’s statement they don’t see any evidence that President Obama ordered a wiretap of President Trump during the campaign, that that puts that to rest?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: I think that you’re going to have to wait until the Senate Intelligence Committee gets done in a couple of weeks — they are going to get into that — before I can draw that conclusion.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Charles Grassley, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you very much.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY: Thank you very much, Judy.

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