Trump narrows high court search, to name conservative next week

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By Lawrence Hurley and David Shepardson | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON President Donald Trump, poised to
restore the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court,
said on Tuesday he would announce his pick next week, with three
federal appeals court judges among those under close
consideration.

Trump planned to meet with Senate leaders on Tuesday at the
White House to discuss his nomination to fill the lingering
court vacancy caused by the death more than 11 months ago of
long-serving conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. The lifetime
appointment as a Supreme Court justice requires Senate
confirmation.

Leonard Leo, a conservative lawyer advising Trump, said the
president “has definitely narrowed his focus” and is “looking
very seriously” at a short list of candidates.

Among the frontrunners are three conservative jurists: Neil
Gorsuch, a judge on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals; Thomas Hardiman, who serves on the Philadelphia-based
3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and William Pryor, a judge on
the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Judges Gorsuch and Hardiman and Pryor have received a lot
of attention from the president. He knows who they are. He is
familiar with their records. He’s clearly impressed with their
backgrounds,” Leo said.

All three were appointed to the bench by Republican former
President George W. Bush.

“I’ll be making my decision this week. We’ll be announcing
next week. We have outstanding candidates, and we will pick a
truly great Supreme Court justice,” Trump told reporters in the
Oval Office.

The leading candidates all have strong conservative
credentials.

Gorsuch joined a ruling in 2013 saying that owners of
private companies can object on religious grounds to a provision
of the Obamacare health insurance law requiring employers to
provide insurance covering birth control for women.

Hardiman wrote an opinion in 2013 embracing a broad
interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s right to bear arms.

Pryor has been an outspoken critic of the court’s 1973
landmark ruling that legalized abortion.

Leo said all three are “very much in the mold of Justice
Scalia,” who was among the most conservative members of the
court.

“I anticipate what we’re going to get from the president is
a highly qualified, well-credentialed conservative jurist,”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters ahead of
the meeting with Trump.

Trump can name Scalia’s replacement because the
Republican-led U.S. Senate, in an action with little precedent
in U.S. history, last year refused to consider Democratic
President Barack Obama’s nominee, appeals court judge Merrick
Garland.

Obama, who handed over power to Trump last Friday, nominated
Garland on March 16, but Republican senators led by McConnell
denied Garland the customary confirmation hearings and vote.

Since Scalia’s death, the court has been deadlocked
ideologically with four conservative justices and four liberals.
A conservative replacement for Scalia would reinstate the
court’s narrow conservative majority in place for decades.

Trump’s fellow Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate. Democrats, irate over Garland’s rebuff, potentially
could try to block the nomination using procedural hurdles.

Tuesday’s meeting will include McConnell and Chuck Grassley,
the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee that will
consider the high court nominee, according to McConnell.

Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein,
the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, will also attend.



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