Trump Closes in on Supreme Court Pick; 3 Judges Top List - NBC Southern California
President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

The latest news on President Donald Trump's presidency

Trump Closes in on Supreme Court Pick; 3 Judges Top List

Trump plans to announce his selection Monday night

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    GOP Pushes for New Supreme Court Justice by Autumn

    News of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement is stoking arguments between Republicans, who are pushing to confirm a new justice by fall, and Democrats, who argue a vote should wait until after the November midterms. Kennedy was a key swing vote among the nine justices. (Published Friday, June 29, 2018)

    President Donald Trump said Thursday he has narrowed down — to two or three — the list of contenders he's considering to fill the vacancy for the Supreme Court seat held by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

    "I think I have it down to four people. And I think of the four people I have it down to three or two," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One.

    The president, who was traveling to a campaign rally in Montana, has wrapped up the interview process and is moving closer to picking his court nominee amid intense jockeying from various factions seeking to influence the choice.

    Trump's current top contenders are federal appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge, said a person familiar with Trump's thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly.

    Footage From 1992 Shows Trump, Epstein at Party

    [NATL] Footage From 1992 Shows Trump, Epstein at Party

    NBC released footage in its archives from 1992 of Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein at a party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The video shows them laughing and pointing as they appear to talk about women at the event, NBC News reported. Trump has said he knew Epstein, but “was not a fan” and they have not spoken in 15 years.

    (Published Wednesday, July 17, 2019)

    With customary fanfare, Trump plans to announce his selection Monday night. The administration is preparing roll-out plans for the leading contenders, and hopes to have a decision on the top one or two names in the next couple of days, so staff can conduct a deep-dive background ahead of the possible prime-time event, according to a senior administration official granted anonymity to discuss the plans.

    But as the president builds suspense for his second court pick in two years — a nominee who could tip the balance toward conservatives and revisit landmark rulings on abortion access, gay marriage and other issues — momentum is also growing among GOP supporters and detractors of the top contenders.

    Conservatives and some libertarian-leaning Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have raised concerns about Kavanaugh, warning he could disappoint Republicans if his past decisions are a guide.

    Paul and another Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, are supporting fellow Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who is not said to be under serious consideration by the White House but is the only lawmaker Trump has considered for the position.

    To counter that, Kavanaugh's allies have begun pushing back, reaching out to influential Republicans to ward off potential criticisms, according to one conservative who was the recipient of such outreach and spoke on condition of anonymity Thursday to discuss the situation.

    The senior administration official, though, said the administration is feeling less heat than earlier in this week over the choices, particularly Kavanaugh, and believes the jockeying in general has calmed somewhat.

    Congress Condemns Trump's 'Go Back' Comments

    [NATL] Congress Condemns Trump's 'Go Back' Comments
    The House of Representatives has passed a resolution that formally condemns President Donald Trump’s so-called racist comments about four Democratic congresswomen of color.
     
    (Published Wednesday, July 17, 2019)

    With the Senate narrowly divided, 51-49, in favor of Republicans, Trump's announcement will launch a contentious confirmation process as Republicans seek to shift the court to the right and Democrats strive to block the effort. Any GOP defections could begin to doom a nominee.

    Tapping into Trump's understanding of the importance of the choice, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told the president this week that nominating someone hostile to abortion access, or the 2010 health care law, would tarnish his legacy.

    Schumer told Trump that such a choice would be "cataclysmic" and create more division than the country has seen in years, according to a person familiar with the conversation who said Trump called Schumer on Tuesday.

    The senator also told the president he could unify the country by nominating Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama's choice for the Supreme Court who was blocked by Republicans in 2016.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday at an event in Louisville that he, too, has been talking to the president about the search and believes "the president will make a very high-quality appointment."

    McConnell acknowledged that his fellow Kentuckian, Judge Amul Thapar, is a finalist, but noted, "The competition at this level is pretty intense."

    Sparks Fly Between Sen. Warren, Mark Esper Over Ties to Defense Contractor at Confirmation Hearing

    [NATL] Sparks Fly Between Sen. Warren, Mark Esper Over Ties to Defense Contractor at Confirmation Hearing

    During a confirmation hearing for Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Senator Elizabeth Warren said because of his ties to lobbying for defense contractor Raytheon and refusal to recuse himself, he is not fit to be Secretary of Defense.

    (Published Tuesday, July 16, 2019)

    Working closely with a White House team and consulting with lawmakers and outside advisers, Trump has spent the week deliberating on the choice. He conducted interviews Monday and Tuesday. He could still consider others in the mix. He's still taking input, making calls to Capitol Hill, the official said.

    Vice President Mike Pence also met with some of Trump's contenders in recent days, according to a person familiar with the search process. The person did not specify which candidates Pence met with and spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday to describe the private search process.

    Trump is choosing his nominee from a list of 25 candidates vetted by conservative groups. Earlier in the week, he spoke with seven of them.

    The president also spoke by phone with Lee, the senator from Utah, on Monday. The White House did not characterize that call as an interview, and Lee is not viewed as a top prospect.

    But Lee has consistent support among conservative and libertarian activists, including some Republicans who worry about a nominee not upholding their principles and who say the Utah senator could bring more certainty.

    More than two dozen conservatives, including Paul, wealthy GOP donor Rebekah Mercer and several tea party leaders, signed a letter backing Lee as having a "proven record."

    House GOP Leadership Defends Trump's Tweets: 'No,' Not Racist

    [NATL] House GOP Leadership Defends Trump's Tweets: 'No,' Not Racist

    Republican leaders in the House responded Tuesday to the outcry over President Donald Trump's tweets during a weekly news conference to address the media. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he didn't believe Trump's comments about four Democratic congresswomen of color were racist and Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., claimed GOP opposition to Democrats is based on policies and not "race or gender or religion."

    (Published Tuesday, July 16, 2019)

    Cruz advocated for Lee on Thursday in a Fox News op-ed warning Trump not to repeat "mistakes" of past Republican presidents by picking a Supreme Court nominee who turns out to be insufficiently conservative.

    Cruz said President George H.W. Bush's selection of liberal David Souter was "one of the most consequential errors of his presidency." He also pointed to former justices William Brennan, John Paul Stevens and Harry Blackmun, the latter of whom wrote the Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman's right to abortion. All three were nominated by Republican presidents.

    Lee, he said, would be a "sure thing."

    Paul, the Kentucky senator, has told colleagues he may not vote for Kavanaugh if the judge is nominated, citing Kavanaugh's role during President George W. Bush's administration on cases involving executive privilege and the disclosure of documents to Congress, said a person familiar with Paul's conversations who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Some conservatives have pointed to Kethledge as a potential justice in the mold of Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first Supreme Court nominee last year. Both Kethledge and Gorsuch once served Kennedy as law clerks, as did Kavanaugh. Kethledge, a Michigan Law graduate, would add academic diversity to a court steeped in the Ivy League.

    Since Trump said his short list includes at least two women, speculation has focused on Barrett, a former law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia and a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor who serves on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Conservative groups rallied around Barrett after her confirmation hearing last year featured questioning from Democrats over how her Roman Catholic faith would affect her decisions.

    4 Congresswomen Respond to Trump’s ‘You Can Leave’ Remark

    [NATL] 4 Congresswomen Respond to Trump’s ‘You Can Leave’ Remark

    U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ,D-N.Y., Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Rep. Ayanna Pressley D-Mass., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., held a news conference Monday to respond to President Donald Trump, who targeted the women in tweets and comments widely labeled as racist.

    (Published Monday, July 15, 2019)

    Trump's choice to replace Kennedy — a swing vote on the nine-member court — has the potential to remake the court for a generation as part of precedent-shattering decisions. Recognizing the stakes, many Democrats have lined up in opposition to any Trump pick.

    One group aligned with Democrats began running ads Thursday in the home states of Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, urging them to hold firm in their support of access to abortion services.

    Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Darlene Superville, Ken Thomas, Alan Fram and Bruce Schreiner contributed to this report.