President Donald Trump interviewed four potential Supreme Court nominees Monday as the White House keeps up its swift pace in the search for a successor to retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“I had a very, very interesting morning,” Trump said as he greeted visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Oval Office. He described the candidates he met as “outstanding people,” but did not name them.
Trump said he expects to meet with two or three additional candidates, and that an announcement is planned for next Monday.
The interviews come on Trump’s first day back in Washington after spending the weekend at his golf club in New Jersey. A senior White House official said that Trump did not conduct any interviews with potential Supreme Court picks over the weekend.
The White House also announced Monday that spokesman Raj Shah is taking a leave of absence from his position to work full time on overseeing the communications effort associated with the upcoming Supreme Court pick.
Shah, who serves as principal deputy press secretary under Sarah Huckabee Sanders, “will oversee communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies,” Sanders said in a statement.
The move is part of a broader push by the White House to rapidly confirm a replacement for Kennedy before the court’s new term begins in October. Trump has said he plans to announce a nominee on July 9.
The White House also announced Monday that the overall confirmation process would be led by White House counsel Donald McGahn, as it was during the process that led to the successful confirmation last year of Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Justin Clark, in his position as director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee outreach with key constituencies, coalitions, grass-roots organizations and allies, the White House said.
And it said a team of lawyers from the White House and Department of Justice are gathering information to assist Trump with the process.
Democrats, meanwhile, have begun taking aim at members of Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist by name. On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized the record of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, who is one of seven judges considered to be front-runners.
“Judge Barrett has given every indication that she will be an activist judge on the court,” Schumer tweeted.”