• President Trump is set to announce his Supreme Court nominee to replace the retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at 9 p.m. Monday. Tune in here. We will have live video coverage.
• Mr. Trump is deciding among four finalists, all federal appellate judges: Amy Coney Barrett of the Seventh Circuit, Brett M. Kavanaugh of the District of Columbia Circuit, Raymond M. Kethledge of the Sixth Circuit and Thomas M. Hardiman of the Third Circuit. All four were on a list of 25 candidates the White House compiled with input from the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation.
• Mr. Trump considers the pick a key moment of his presidency, and was pushing his decision into the final hours before his self-imposed Monday night announcement deadline.
Democrats to nominee: Will you overturn Roe?
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said in an interview that he would urge Democrats to ask the nominee pointedly whether he or she would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 decision legalizing abortion.
“I think people should ask,” Mr. Schumer said. “And I think the American people should expect a direct answer.”
In the past, senators have often couched questions on Roe by asking nominees if they accept the decision as “settled law,” and whether they respect legal precedent. But Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump has upended the old rules by declaring openly that he would only pick nominees who would overturn Roe, and by publicizing a list of potential candidates.
And he noted that past nominees who have said they respect precedent — including Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, named to the court last year by Mr. Trump, who said he would “follow the law of the judicial precedent” — have voted to overturn past decisions, most recently last month in a case that diluted the power of unions.
“No one believes that nominees from a preordained list will simply follow existing law,” Mr. Schumer said. “It’s become a dodge. It’s become a bar so low as to be meaningless, given that nominees have made previous pledges and walked right back on them.”
Of course, there is nothing to stop the nominee from delivering the traditional dodge: “With all due respect, I cannot answer a hypothetical question.”
— Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Senate back is back in action.
The Senate convened Monday afternoon ahead of the court announcement, which is sure to consume the chamber for months. Mr. Schumer took the moment to warn that Mr. Trump was virtually guaranteed to put forth a nominee who would be hostile to abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.
“At this critical juncture, with so many rights and liberties at stake, U.S. senators and the American people should expect an affirmative statement of support for the personal liberties of all Americans from the next Supreme Court nominee,” Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, countered with his own warning about the attacks from the left that will be directed at Mr. Trump’s nominee.
“We don’t know who he will name, but we already know exactly what unfair tactics the nominee will face,” Mr. McConnell said. “They won’t be new, and they won’t be warranted. We can expect to hear how they’ll destroy equal rights, or demolish American health care, or ruin our country in some other fictional way.”
Democrats decline to be presidential props.
President Trump invited a few Senate Democrats to the White House for Monday night’s announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, hoping to at least project an image of bipartisan support from the Democrats who might, just might, vote to confirm his pick.
Alas, they declined to attend.
As Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana put it, “While I appreciate the invitation from the White House to attend this evening’s announcement, I declined so that I can meet first with the nominee in a setting where we can discuss his or her experience and perspectives. In the coming days, I will be reviewing the record and qualifications of the president’s nominee.”
If anything, Senator Joe Manchin III signaled that he could be a hard sell when he picked up an issue that Democratic leaders are pressing: making sure any nominee will protect the Affordable Care Act.
Looking for clues in a black sedan.
As Washington searched for clues to Mr. Trump’s selection for the Supreme Court, one of his top candidates, Judge Kavanaugh, was spotted leaving his office on Monday afternoon in a black sedan followed by a series of black sports utility vehicles containing security personnel.
The entourage accompanying Judge Kavanaugh, who sits on the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, was unusual and attracted the attention of people working at the courthouse in Washington, according to a person informed about the activity who asked not to be identified. It was not immediately clear where Judge Kavanaugh was being taken.
Mr. Trump plans to announce at 9 p.m. on national television his choice to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is retiring at the end of the month. Judge Kavanaugh, a former clerk to Justice Kennedy and a former senior White House official under President George W. Bush, is one of four finalists and has long been considered a front-runner.
— Peter Baker
Trump expressed renewed interest in Hardiman as he continued weighing the finalists.
On Sunday, The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump had expressed renewed interest in nominating Judge Hardiman, who was the runner-up to Judge Neil M. Gorsuch as the president’s first Supreme Court nominee in January 2017.
Mr. Trump was inspired by Judge Hardiman’s biography, according to people close to the process, and has considered the recommendation of his sister, Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, who served with Judge Hardiman on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Judge Hardiman was also, along with Judge Kethledge, one of two finalists Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, recently recommended to Mr. Trump and the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, arguing that they posed the least risk of a confirmation failure.
Mr. McConnell saw drawbacks in the others. Judge Kavanaugh once argued that President Bill Clinton could be impeached for lying to his staff and misleading the public, a broad definition of obstruction of justice that would be damaging to Mr. Trump if applied in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. And Judge Kavanaugh has been viewed with suspicion by conservatives wary of his connection to President George W. Bush, for whom he served as staff secretary.
Judge Barrett, a former law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia, has been championed by conservative Christian leaders, but Mr. McConnell fears she could cause the defection of two key Republican moderates in the Senate. (During her confirmation hearings last September for an appeals court seat, she told senators that her religious beliefs would not affect her judicial decisions.)
Mr. Trump told reporters late Sunday afternoon that he was still considering all four finalists, and that he would make his decision by noon on Monday at the latest.
“Every one, you can’t go wrong,” he said.
— Noah Weiland
Democrats want to put up a fight, but may not be able to.
Democrats made it clear over the weekend that the bar is high for their votes. But they acknowledged how hard it would be to stop a nominee who has unanimous support among Senate Republicans.
Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, admitted on Sunday that Democratic opposition could be futile. Even if all 49 members of their caucus united in opposition, they would still need at least one Republican to join them to block the nomination.
“It will be very difficult,” Mr. Coons said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “If all the Republicans stick together, along with the vice president, they’ll be able to confirm whomever President Trump nominates.”
Senator Richard J. Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said on Sunday that Mr. Trump’s nominee would most likely be in the mold of Justice Gorsuch, who received unanimous Republican support in his confirmation vote and who Mr. Durbin said had voted “in lock step on the Republican conservative side.”
“They want to fill this vacancy to give them an advantage in any future rulings,” Mr. Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, wrote in a Times Op-Ed last week that if Mr. Trump’s first candidate failed, it would be wise to select a more moderate nominee. In a phone call with Mr. Trump, Mr. Schumer even floated the idea of nominating Judge Merrick B. Garland, President Barack Obama’s failed nominee in 2016.
The nomination vote will be difficult for Senate Democrats in red states who are up for re-election in November, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia. A decision by one or all of them to try to bolster their standing with Republican-leaning voters would undermine Democratic leaders.
Democrats fear that Mr. Trump’s nominee could favor the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to an abortion. Here is what each of the four finalists has had to say on the topic.
— Noah Weiland
Will the nominee arrive in secret? Will the runner-up be a decoy?
Whereas Mr. Obama opted for conventional ceremony in announcing his Supreme Court nominees, Mr. Trump prefers prime-time spectacle. Last year’s nomination of Justice Gorsuch was framed as a reality television-like cliffhanger: Who would it be? Were both finalists backstage at the White House? Would Mr. Trump change his mind at the last minute?
Dozens of lawmakers, family members and aides gathered in the East Room of the White House, where Mr. Trump made a red carpet entrance, then delivered a two-minute-long preamble, prolonging the mystery. When he revealed his selection, Mr. Gorsuch and his wife entered the room to a standing ovation.
“So was that a surprise?” Mr. Trump asked the crowd with a grin. “Was it?”
Adding to the suspense, a camera crew had spotted Judge Hardiman driving in Pennsylvania just hours before Mr. Trump announced his choice. Judge Hardiman claimed he was merely visiting someone in Altoona, a Pennsylvania town about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh, where Judge Hardiman keeps his chambers. But White House aides suggested that it was part of a plan to distract the news media.
Mr. Trump seemed to rely on that kind of speculation to enhance the drama of the televised selection. Word of the pick leaked only selectively in the hours leading up to the event, meaning many of those tuning in were learning of Mr. Gorsuch’s nomination for the first time as Mr. Trump read out his name.
After Judge Gorsuch heard the good news from Mr. Trump, he and his wife traveled on a military jet from a Colorado airport to Joint Base Andrews. The day of the announcement, he was smuggled into the White House, where aides had him wait in the Lincoln Bedroom before his appearance with Mr. Trump.
— Noah Weiland