By CATHERINE LUCEY and KEN THOMAS
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump interviewed four prospective Supreme Court justices on Monday and planned to speak with a few more, as he powered forward with a speedy selection process to fill the fresh vacancy on the court.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he had met with “four potential justices of our great Supreme Court. They are outstanding people and they are really incredible people in so many different ways, academically and in every other way.”
Trump added that he would meet with “two or three more” in advance of an announcement on July 9 concerning a replacement for the retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He consulted advisers during a weekend at his Bedminster golf club, and the White House has assembled a team to manage the nomination and confirmation process.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s top Democrat tried on Monday to rally public opposition to any Supreme Court pick who’d oppose abortion rights, issuing a striking campaign-season call for voters to prevent such a nominee by putting “pressure on the Senate.”
With Trump saying he’ll pick from a list of 25 potential nominees he’s compiled with help from conservatives, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said any of them would be “virtually certain” to favor overturning Roe v. Wade, the case from 1973 affirming women’s right to abortion. They would also be “very likely” to back weakening President Barack Obama’s 2010 law that expanded health care coverage to millions of Americans, he said.
Schumer said that although Democrats don’t control the Senate — Republicans have a 51-49 edge — most senators back abortion rights. In an unusually direct appeal to voters, he said that to block “an ideological nominee,” people should “tell your senators” to oppose anyone from Trump’s list.
“It will not happen on its own,” the New Yorker wrote in an opinion column in Monday’s New York Times. “It requires the public’s focus on these issues, and its pressure on the Senate.”
Trump has said he is looking most closely at as many seven candidates, including two women, for the vacancy created by Kennedy, a swing vote on the nine-member court.
Schumer’s column appeared a day after Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would oppose any nominee she believed would overturn Roe v. Wade. Collins said she would only back a judge who would show respect for settled law such as the Roe decision, which has long been anathema to conservatives.
“I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade because that would mean to me that their judicial philosophy did not include a respect for established decisions, established law,” Collins said.
Such a judge, she said, “would not be acceptable to me because that would indicate an activist agenda.”
Trump spent the weekend at his New Jersey golf club conferring with his advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn, as he considers his options to fill the vacancy that might make precedent-shattering court decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.
McGahn will lead the selection and confirmation process, the White House said on Monday. He played the same role in the successful confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch last year.