President Donald Trump will select his next Supreme Court nominee from the same list of 21 candidates his campaign produced during the 2016 general election, should another vacancy arise on the high court.
The president told The Washington Times that the list of prospective nominees has been integral to his political success, and vowed to name his next nominee from the same roster.
“Yes,” Trump said when asked if he would stick to the list for future Supreme Court nominations. “That list was a big thing.”
He also raised the prospect of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s imminent retirement. Though Kennedy — who will turn 81 in July — has not suggested he is mulling retirement in public remarks, rumors have circulated among court-watchers for nearly a year that he will soon leave the bench.
Seizing on this persistent gossip, the White House has made overtures nudging Kennedy towards retirement in recent months. The administration has named several former Kennedy clerks to senior posts at the U.S. Department of Justice, and Trump’s first nominee to the high court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is also an alum of Kennedy’s chambers.
“I have a lot of respect for Justice Kennedy, but I just don’t know,” Trump told the Times. “I don’t like talking about it. I’ve heard the same rumors that a lot of people have heard. And I have a lot of respect for that gentleman, a lot.”
Administration sources also leaked the names of two possible successors to Kennedy to Adam Liptak at The New York Times in early February. The unnamed officials said Judges Raymond Kethledge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — Kennedy clerks both — would likely be Trump’s two top choices.
Though Kethledge was included on the campaign’s list of possible Supreme Court picks, Kavanaugh was not.
Kavanaugh, a young, polished conservative on the nation’s second highest appeals court, was long considered a frontrunner for the Supreme Court under a Republican president. The reasons for his exclusion from the list remain unclear, though it appears his stock has risen inside the Trump White House.
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