President Donald Trump said Friday he has narrowed his list of Supreme Court finalists to five candidates, including two women, and plans to announce his nominee on July 9, one day before he is scheduled to depart for a week-long European trip.
Trump is moving quickly to fill the vacancy that will be created when Justice Anthony M. Kennedy retires from the court July 31. Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, in part to give the Senate time to consider a nominee and hold votes before the midterm elections in November.
“I like them all,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. “It is a group of highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges.”
Trump has said he will select a nominee from a list of 25 names, many of them judges on federal and state courts across the country.
“Outside of war and peace, of course, the most important decision you make is the selection of a Supreme Court judge, if you get it,” Trump said. “As you know, there are many presidents who never get a choice.”
Trump said Friday that his Supreme Court selection process would begin in earnest on Monday and that he would interview “six or seven” candidates in total. He said he planned to interview one or two of them this weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is spending time with family at his private golf course.
“I may have two of them come up, like the old days, to Bedminster,” Trump said, referring to the staff and Cabinet interviews he held there in late 2016 during the presidential transition. “It is exciting.”
The president said he was not intending to ask candidates about their positions on Roe v. Wade, the landmark abortion rights case that the court decided in 1973.
“That’s not a question I’ll be asking them,” he said.
Earlier Friday, Trump made similar comments in an interview with Fox News and said he was looking for a nominee who closely models Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated in January 2017.
Asked by Fox’s Maria Bartiromo whether he would ask potential nominees how they might come down on Roe v. Wade, Trump said: “Well, that’s a big one. And probably not. They’re all saying, ‘Don’t do that, you don’t do that, you shouldn’t do that,’ but I’m putting conservative people on.”
“I’m very proud of Neil Gorsuch,” Trump continued. “He has been outstanding. His opinions are so well-written and so brilliant. I’m going to try and do something like that, but I don’t think I’m going to be so specific.”
In his Air Force One conversation with reporters, during the quick afternoon flight to New Jersey from Washington, Trump singled out one potential candidate for the court, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, indicating that Lee was pining for the nomination.
“He’s an outstanding talent,” Trump said of Lee. “I actually saw him on television last night, where he said he would love the job. You know, usually they don’t say that.”