President Donald Trump has interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices and plans to meet with a few more as his White House aggressively mobilizes to select a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Eager to build suspense, Trump wouldn’t divulge whom he’s talking to in advance of his big announcement, set for July 9. But he promised that “they are outstanding people. They are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way. I had a very, very interesting morning.”
Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump met with four people for 45 minutes each Monday and will continue meetings through the rest of the week. She said Tuesday he has “two or three more that he’ll interview this week and then make a decision.”
The interviews were with federal appeals judges Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, said a person with knowledge of the meetings who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. The Washington Post first reported the identities of the candidates Trump spoke with.
The president spent the weekend at his Bedminster golf club, consulting with advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn. McGahn will lead the overall selection and confirmation process, the White House said Monday, repeating the role he played in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.
McGahn will be supported by a White House team that includes spokesman Raj Shah, taking a leave from the press office to work full time on “communications, strategy and messaging coordination with Capitol Hill allies.” Justin Clark, director of the Office of Public Liaison, will oversee White House coordination with outside groups.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters in Ashland, Kentucky, on Monday that “it’s probably going to be close; I think there will be a big, national campaign rage. But in the end, I’m confident we’ll get the judge confirmed.”
Trump has said he is focusing on up to seven potential candidates, including two women, to fill the vacancy being left by Kennedy, a swing vote on the nine-member court.
Currently the court has three women justices, all appointed by Democrats. Court watchers have been discussing the prospect of a conservative woman on the bench.
Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network, said she did not think picking a woman was “the top concern” of Trump, stressing judicial philosophy and experience. But she added, “If he does end up nominating a woman, she can stand on her own accomplishments.”
Anna Chu, vice president for strategy and policy at the National Women’s Law Center, said she was concerned that a female pick could be a kind of “Trojan horse.”
“What’s important in addition to increasing diversity is how that person would actually interpret law,” Chu said. “There are real stakes here. You could be a woman and not be fair minded.”