Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has spoken with President Trump about the Supreme Court vacancy, the senator’s office said Tuesday, as Mr. Trump interviewed three other prospective nominees.
The president and the lawmaker who’s a favorite of the tea party spoke by phone Monday, said White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah, who is leading the communications effort for the Supreme Court nomination process. The White House didn’t say what they talked about.
Mr. Shah said the president interviewed three potential nominees Tuesday, after meeting with four others on Monday. Mr. Trump will announce his decision next Monday on whom he will pick to replace retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Mr. Lee, the only candidate on Mr. Trump’s overall list of 25 possible nominees who’s not a judge, didn’t receive a face-to-face interview with the president like the other candidates. At the time of the phone call, Mr. Lee was in Utah.
Mr. Lee, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, likely could vote for himself during the Senate confirmation hearing — something he hasn’t ruled out. One of his colleagues, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has called Mr. Lee the “single best choice” for the nomination.
The four other candidates in person Monday at the White House were federal appeals court judges: Brett Kavanaugh of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Amul Thapar of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd U.S, Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Of that group, Judge Kavanaugh is the oldest, at 53. Judge Barrett, a former law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is the youngest at 46.
Mr. Lee, 47, is in his second term is the Senate. He clerked for then-Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Justice Alito is now on the Supreme Court.
He also has a clearer pro-life record than some others under consideration; Mr. Lee has called for restrictions on abortion, including banning it after 20 weeks.
A majority of Americans think the Senate should vote on Mr. Trump’s nominee before the November midterms, rejecting Democrats’ argument that it should be delayed until after the elections, according to a new NBC News / SurveyMonkey poll.
More than 6 in 10 Americans, or 62 percent, said Mr. Trump’s nominee should receive a vote before the elections in which control of the House and Senate will be decided. One-third of those polled said the Senate should wait until after the elections.
Congressional Democrats and their allies say any Trump nominee will be unacceptable, pointing to the example of Mr. Trump’s first Supreme Court appointment, conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.
Paul Gordon, senior legislative counsel at the liberal People For the American Way, said Justice Gorsuch “has been a reliable vote to weaken protections for working people, to harm immigrants, to weaken church-state separation, to prevent women from getting accurate and nonbiased medical information, to undermine vital safeguards in the criminal justice system, to take rights away from LGBTQ people, and to make it harder for Americans to use the democratic process to vote his fellow Republicans out of office.”
“On a whole panoply of rights, we know exactly what we would get with a new justice like Neil Gorsuch,” he said. “That is why we cannot let it happen.”
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