Trump told reporters Friday that he’s narrowed his list down to five people, including two women. He will start interviewing some candidates as early as this weekend, possibly at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to relive “the old days” of summoning potential Cabinet picks.
“I like them all,” Trump said. “It is a group of highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges.”
Trump was also asked whether he will question potential justices about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects a woman’s right to abortion.
“I’m not going to ask them that question,” Trump replied.
Roe v. Wade is a very big deal for a certain segment of Trump’s conservative, evangelical base. Overturning, or at least totally neutering the decision, has long been a goal of anti-abortion activists. Replacing the swing vote Kennedy — who tended to side with the more liberal justices when it came to reproductive rights — with a more conservative justice could finally tip the balance on the Court.
Trump has said in the past that “he’s pro-choice in every respect,” but as a Republican candidate and president, he has promised to appoint anti-abortion justices. But whether Trump was just spitballing or not all that concerned about Roe is probably a moot point — the list of potential justices he’s said to be working from include doctrinaire conservatives much like Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first Supreme Court pick.
Then again, maybe Trump’s just trying to amp up the drama. The president turned his first Supreme Court selection into a judicial version of The Apprentice by ordering his top two picks to Washington and making the announcement in prime time.
Besides the hints he dropped Friday about the potential nominee, Trump promised at a rally this week to pick a “great” justice that’s “going to be there for 40 years, 45 years.”
Either way, Trump is moving fast. Kennedy is retiring July 31, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised to confirm the next justice by the fall. Democrats have no power to stop Trump’s nominee — and would need to peel off Republicans (and not lose any Democrats) to even have a chance to block his selection. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are both supportive of abortion rights, which means both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are fighting over their votes. But we’ve seen this episode this before.