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US Supreme Court candidate list narrows as Trump considers options

Shortlist of candidates for nation’s highest court includes two women and hews to strict conservative and constitutionalist principles

President Trump’s list of Supreme Court candidates has narrowed from a reported 25 originally, down to between five and seven as of Sunday July 1st. Bloomberg News reported that the list includes two women as prospective picks.

The President has been listening closely to the advice given by his counsel Don McGahn and judicial adviser Leonard Leo, the executive Vice President of the conservative Federalist Society.

According to Business Insider, Mr. Trump is seeking three main qualities:

Firstly, Trump has said he wants an “extraordinarily well qualified” nominee with sterling credentials on his or her resume.

Trump has reportedly sought to pick someone with a law degree from Ivy League schools like Harvard or Yale, and [one of his advisers] told The [Washington] Post that Trump wants the candidate to have an impressive portfolio of academic writing. The adviser acknowledged, however, that Trump has no desire to read the candidate’s writing — only to know that it exists.

donald trump neil gorsuch
President Donald Trump shakes hands Neil Gorsuch, now Supreme Court associate justice, in the White House. The president is considering a new appointee to the Court presently. Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

Secondly, the adviser told The Post that the nominee cannot be “weak,” and must demonstrate the wherewithal to resist “the political and social fashions of the day.”

Lastly, the adviser said Trump wants his pick to “interpret the Constitution the way the framers meant it to be.”

The final point echoes the legal philosophy of Trump’s last Supreme Court pick, Justice Neil Gorsuch, a renowned textualist, meaning someone who seeks to interpret laws according to their plain text over the intent of their writers or the laws’ consequences.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump surprised many critics in the Republican Party who doubted his conservative point of view when he released a list of candidates for judicial posts he would nominate from, were he to be elected President. The conservative and constitutionalist Heritage Foundation wholly endorsed the picks; in fact the group was initially tasked to offer its choices.

His selection of Colorado Federal Judge Neil Gorsuch was the first pick to the nation’s high court, and this pick was exactly what was promised. The list of qualifications suggests that in no way does President Trump plan to deviate from the plan due to political and social pressures, especially those present during the current illegal immigration “scandal.”

In a similar fashion, the president considers this choice very serious to the welfare of the nation.

In an interesting move, the President does not plan to ask any of his prospects about their opinion on Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that made elective abortion legal in the United States.

Regardless of the pick, the Senate Confirmation hearings are sure to be quite thorny, with the liberals (including two liberal Republican women senators, Susan Collins of Main and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) likely to press extremely hard on the abortion matter.

The Washington Post writes:

Since before taking office, Trump has strategized with McGahn, Leo and others about aggressively filling federal court vacancies to permanently shift the judiciary to the right. The pace has been historic — and, for conservatives, the outcome has been an undeniable success.

“This president had a vision,” Leo said. “He did something entrepreneurial and different. He had a very clear sense of what he wanted, he spent a lot of time asking questions about [the late] Justice [Antonin] Scalia and Justice [Clarence] Thomas and other members of the court, and he got to know Justice Kennedy a little bit. I have been really impressed with how he conducted this process. He’s in control of it.”

And as he does with all job candidates, Trump will be looking also for personal chemistry, central-casting looks and relatable life stories. Last year, Trump was drawn to Thomas Hardiman, runner-up to Gorsuch in the court sweepstakes, in part because of his working-class roots. Hardiman was the first in his family to graduate from college, helped pay for his education by driving a taxi, and now is a federal appeals court judge in Pittsburgh, an area of Pennsylvania where Trump has a strong political following.

Hardiman is believed to be a contender this time as well. Trump’s shortlist also is said to possibly include U.S. Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana; U.S. Circuit Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of Maryland, a former Kennedy law clerk; U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, who was a finalist last year; and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Amul Thapar of Kentucky.

With just four months until the midterm elections, when any Democratic gains in the Senate would jeopardize a Trump nominee, the White House is working with Senate Republican leaders to set a rapid timeline for voting on a nominee by October so they can take advantage of the GOP’s razor-thin majority in the chamber. Trump and senior White House officials already are personally lobbying key senators, laboring to till the ground ahead of what is expected to be a ferocious nomination battle.

“Outside of war and peace, of course, the most important decision you make is the selection of a Supreme Court judge,” the president told reporters Friday.

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