New York Times

Trump Has Decided on Supreme Court Nominee, After a Morning of Seeking Advice

Trump Has Decided on Supreme Court Nominee, After a Morning of Seeking Advice

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Television crews set up in front of the Supreme Court on Monday ahead of President Trump’s planned announcement of his pick for its next justice.CreditJacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

President Trump has decided on his nominee to the Supreme Court after spending Monday morning working the phones primarily seeking input about two judges who were said to be the finalists, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Thomas M. Hardiman, people familiar with the discussions said.

Those who discussed the president’s decision, and spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not disclose the name of the president’s selection.

Mr. Trump had been going back and forth between Judge Kavanaugh, the favorite of the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, and Judge Hardiman, whom the president’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a former colleague of Judge Hardiman’s, has pressed him to choose.

Two other candidates for the seat of the retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Raymond Kethledge — were not the focus of Mr. Trump’s morning discussions, according to those familiar with the discussions.

The drama-focused president is going to announce his choice for the Kennedy seat in a Monday night address to the country at 9 p.m. He said on Sunday that he hoped to have made a decision by noon on Monday.

The president has been lobbied in the final hours of his selection process by both supporters and opponents of the four candidates, all of whom are federal appeals court judge with conservative records.

Judge Barrett, the only woman under consideration, has the support of Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and close Trump ally, who played golf with the president in New Jersey on Sunday.

Mr. Kethledge also has supporters. But he has a comparatively thin record of judicial opinions, and some conservatives have voiced concerns that he could turn out to be similar to Justice David Souter, who was appointed to the court by President George H.W. Bush but sometimes sided with the court’s liberals. Mr. Kethledge’s rulings in an immigration case have brought criticism from conservatives like the commentator Ann Coulter. And Judge Hardiman, the first in his family to graduate from college, has the kind of personal story that appeals to many Trump supporters.

But it is Judge Kavanaugh who has been the focus of much of the lobbying, both for and against him. Besides Mr. McGahn, he has the support of some Republicans who admire his record as a lawyer working with the independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr in the investigation of President Bill Clinton and later in the George W. Bush White House as well as his conservative record as a judge.

But that element of his record is among the reasons that some Republicans in Congress are concerned about a confirmation hearing in the Senate. Others have expressed concern about how Judge Kavanaugh would vote on cases related to the Affordable Care Act. Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has tried to warn the president through gentle nudging that Judge Hardiman and Judge Kethledge would be the safest choices for confirmation.

Mr. Trump has been uncharacteristically circumspect about what he is thinking as the process has unfolded. He has quizzed golf partners, visitors to his club at Bedminster, N.J., and friends and advisers about how they view the candidates. But he has offered little about his thinking.

On one front he has been clear, however — while he admires Judge Kavanaugh’s credentials, he is also concerned by his work in the Bush administration.

As the president deliberated, the conservative Judicial Crisis Network prepared for a seven-figure advertising buy in four states to support the eventual nominee. It’s a similar playbook to one the group followed last year with Judge Neil Gorsuch.

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