US President Donald Trump has insisted that comments by his Supreme Court nominee criticising his attacks on the judiciary were "misrepresented", even as Republican and Democratic politicians vouched for the veracity of the remarks.
Mr Trump's comments prompted a rebuke from Judge Neil Gorsuch, who said at a meeting with politicians that the president's remarks were "demoralising and disheartening".
Judge Gorsuch, who was nominated by Mr Trump last week to the nation's highest court, made the comments in meetings with senators after Mr Trump accused an appellate court considering his immigration and refugee executive order of being "so political".
Over the weekend, the president labelled a judge who ruled on his executive order a "so-called judge" and referred to the ruling as "ridiculous".
Democratic senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, first relayed Judge Gorsuch's remarks on Wednesday following a meeting with the judge.
Mr Trump's own confirmation team for Judge Gorsuch later confirmed he had made those remarks.
But Mr Trump suggested that Mr Blumenthal had misrepresented Judge Gorsuch, tweeting early on Thursday: "Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?"
Sen.Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie),now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017
Mr Blumenthal, who served in the marine corps reserves during Vietnam, apologised in 2010 for saying he had served in Vietnam.
More broadly, Mr Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, argued on Thursday that Judge Gorsuch would need to go further to publicly condemn Mr Trump's attacks on judicial independence.
"He needs to condemn Donald Trump's attacks publicly and it needs to be much stronger, more explicit and direct than has been done so far," Mr Blumenthal said.
"Unless it is done publicly in a clear condemnation, it will not establish his independence."
Politicians from both parties quickly vouched for the veracity of the remarks the senator said Judge Gorsuch made.
Republican former senator Kelly Ayotte, who is helping with Judge Gorsuch's confirmation and was at the meeting, issued a statement saying Judge Gorsuch made clear he was not referring to any specific case.
But she said the nominee said he finds any criticism of a judge's integrity and independence to be "disheartening and demoralising".
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and senator Ben Sasse each confirmed that Judge Gorsuch made the same comments to them.
Mr Sasse told MSNBC's Morning Joe: "Frankly, he got pretty passionate about it," adding that Judge Gorsuch said any attack on the "'brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges'".
Fellow Connecticut Democratic senator Chris Murphy came to Mr Blumenthal's defence on Thursday, lashing out in a tweet directed at Mr Trump: "Ha! As a prosecutor, Dick used to put guys like u in jail. Now, u use your position to mock vets, he uses his to make their lives better."
Judge Gorsuch's comments came at the end of a week of meetings with members of the senate, which is considering his nomination.
His response may have been aimed at drawing a line of separation from the new president, who has been a politically polarising figure among Democrats in a highly charged partisan fight over the court.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing the appeal of Mr Trump's executive order on immigration, including a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
In a hearing on Tuesday, judges on the appeals court challenged the administration's claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but also questioned a lawyer's argument that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.
Mr Trump criticised the court that is considering his immigration and refugee executive order, telling a group of police chiefs on Wednesday that his immigration order was "done for the security of our nation".
He quoted from the portion of the immigration law that he said gave him the power to enact the ban, calling it "beautifully written" and saying: "A bad high school student would understand this."
"Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what's right," Mr Trump added.
"And that has to do with the security of our country, which is so important."
Since a lower court judge blocked the order last week, Mr Trump has assailed the decision, leading legal experts, Democrats and some Republicans to question whether the president's remarks might jeopardise the independence of the judiciary.
Others have expressed fears he may be attempting to use political influence to sway the courts.
In his speech, Mr Trump sought to link his comments about the court battle over his executive order to the law enforcement community in attendance.
"We have to allow you to do your job," he said.
"And we have to give you the weapons that you need, and this is a weapon that you need and they're trying to take it away from you."
The president has repeatedly said people are "pouring in" since the ban was put on hold and suggested that blocking the order would be dangerous for US citizens.
On Wednesday morning, he tweeted: "Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable, as we wait for what should be EASY D!"
The administration has not provided any information to support his claims.