President Trump hopes to woo Gorsuch support from bipartisan group of senators

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WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02: Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch meets with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump nominated Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court to fill the seat that had left vacant with the death of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump is set to host a bipartisan group of senators for lunch Thursday at the White House to discuss their potential support for Neil Gorsuch, the President’s Supreme Court pick.

The meeting is an attempt by President Trump to smooth the way for Gorsuch’s confirmation, though he may have poisoned the well with an early morning tweet insulting a Democratic senator.

Four of the Democratic senators attending the lunch — Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Jon Tester of Montana — are up for re-election in 2018 in states President Trump won in 2016.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is up for reelection in 2018, will not attend Thursday’s lunch with President Trump, according to her spokesman, instead telling the White House that she could not attend because of a previously scheduled meeting with constituents.

President Trump and McCaskill are now working to set up a phone call instead, the senator’s spokeswoman said.

“Claire’s looking forward to talking with the President,” said McCaskill spokeswoman Sarah Feldman.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, will also attend the meeting, he told CNN.

Coons, who flew to Delaware with President Trump last week and spoke with him at the National Prayer Breakfast, has appeared closer to the President than other Democratic lawmakers.

Coons told CNN’s “New Day” Thursday he will talk to President Trump about his comments regarding federal judges and the concept of judicial independence.

“I think we need to focus on the larger issue here rather than the ‘he said, she said’ about what they did or didn’t say,” he said. “The larger issue is that judicial independence is at risk.”

He added: “I think President Trump is going to harm his chances of confirmation and his standing as President if he continues to undermine the independence of the federal judiciary.”

President Trump will also look to shore up support for Gorsuch within his own part Thursday.

GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, John Cornyn of Texas, Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, will also attend the Thursday lunch, sources have confirmed to CNN.

Blumenthal back-and-forth

But earlier Thursday, President Trump falsely accused Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of misrepresenting his Supreme Court nominee’s words, according to several familiar with the incident.

The Connecticut Democrat was not invited to the lunch, even before the dust-up.

Blumenthal said Wednesday that Gorsuch told him he found President Trump’s attack on a federal judge on Twitter “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”

Within a half-hour, Gorsuch spokesman Ron Bonjean, who was tapped by the White House to head communications for Gorsuch, confirmed the comments. Several other senators, including Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, later relayed similar accounts of Gorsuch forcefully criticizing President Trump’s public attacks on the judiciary branch.

And on Thursday morning, Blumenthal said on MSNBC Gorsuch specifically told him he “should feel free to mention what I said about these attacks being disheartening and demoralizing.”

But none of that stopped President Trump from firing off a shot against Blumenthal — and at the same time raising questions about the coherence of the White House’s messaging.

Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch calls President Trump’s tweets ‘disheartening’

“Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” President Trump tweeted Thursday morning.