Trump says he will immediately begin search for Kennedy replacement

President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE on Wednesday said he will “immediately” begin searching for a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Trump said Kennedy’s replacement will come from a list of 25 potential justices he first released during his 2016 presidential campaign. 

“It will be somebody from that list,” Trump told reporters at the White House during a meeting with the president of Portugal. 

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The president said Kennedy had been a “great justice” and a “spectacular man” who “display[ed] great vision” and “tremendous heart,” adding he hopes “to pick someone just as outstanding.”

The White House released an updated list of judges in November that includes federal appeals court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is based in Washington and clerked for Kennedy on the high court. 
 
Appeals court Judges Thomas Hardiman and William Pryor, as well as federal District Judge Amul Thapar, could also be considered; they were reportedly among Trump’s finalists for the last Supreme Court vacancy. Amy Coney Barrett, an Indiana-based federal appeals judge, is another possibility.
 
Trump said he learned of Kennedy’s retirement during a meeting earlier Wednesday at the White House with the 81-year-old justice, who will officially leave the bench at the end of July. 

With Kennedy’s departure, Trump has the chance to solidify conservative control of the nation’s highest court.

Kennedy’s replacement will be Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee.

The president’s first pick, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed early last year to replace the late conservative stalwart Antonin Scalia. That seat came open during former President Obama's final year in office, but Senate Republicans blocked his nominee, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandPoll: Americans more divided on Trump Supreme Court pick than any other since 1987 Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE

Kennedy, who was appointed by President Reagan, has served as a key swing vote on cases dealing with abortion rights, immigration, LGBT rights, guns and campaign finance laws. 

 
Trump said he has not given any consideration to waiting until after the November midterm elections to begin the confirmation process, but added it should “go as quickly as possible.” 
 
McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday a vote will be held on Kennedy’s successor “this fall.” 
 
Updated at 3:28 p.m.