Trump to announce Supreme Court pick July 9; two women on short list

President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE on Friday said he has narrowed his list of potential Supreme Court nominees to about five, including two women, and plans to announce his pick on July 9.

“I’ve got it narrowed to about five,” he told reporters on Air Force One en route to his New Jersey golf club, where he said he plans to interview one or two candidates this weekend.

Trump said he would interview six to seven candidates in total, saying, "I like them all."

“We have great people,” Trump said of his short list. “Highly talented, brilliant, mostly conservative judges.” 

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Trump’s comments are the latest sign he is moving rapidly to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement this week. Kennedy's retirement does not become official until July 31.

A July 9 announcement would come just before Trump leaves for a six-day trip to Europe and could set up a potential confirmation vote as early as the fall. 

The vacancy has given Trump an opportunity to solidify conservative control of the nation’s highest court.

Kennedy, 81, served as a swing vote on key immigration, abortion and gay rights cases. The president has said he wants to fill his seat with someone in the mold of his first Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, a staunch conservative jurist.

The president said he would not ask potential nominees about their position on Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that gave women the right to an abortion.

“I’m not going to ask them that question,” he said. 

Trump did not offer up the five names on his short list, which he has said will be pulled from a list of 25 judges he first released during the 2016 campaign. But he did recognize Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeOn The Money: Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump | Trump to offer B aid package for farmers | House votes to boost retirement savings | Study says new tariffs to double costs for consumers Senate passes disaster aid bill after deal with Trump Hillicon Valley: Google delays cutting off Huawei | GOP senators split over breaking up big tech | Report finds DNC lagging behind RNC on cybersecurity MORE’s (R-Utah) public acknowledgment he would not turn down the post. 

“He said he’d like the job, usually they don’t say that,” Trump said. 

Lee is on Trump’s initial list of possible Supreme Court picks.

Kennedy’s retirement announcement set off a scramble by the president, White House staff and outside conservative allies to identify a replacement and strategize for what is expected to be a brutal confirmation fight in the Senate. 
 
Trump met on Thursday night with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTrump-Pelosi fight threatens drug pricing talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Senators unveil sweeping bipartisan health care package | House lawmakers float Medicare pricing reforms | Dems offer bill to guarantee abortion access Bipartisan senators reveal sweeping health care package MORE (R-Iowa) and two key GOP swing votes, Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiMurkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Overnight Energy: Park Service plans to pay full-time staff through entrance fees | Oil companies join blitz for carbon tax | Interior chief takes heat for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change Democrats grill Trump Interior chief for saying he hasn't 'lost sleep' over climate change MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Collins offering bill to boost battery research as GOP pushes energy 'innovation' Biden says Congress must move to protect abortion rights MORE (Maine). Also meeting with the president were Democratic senators representing states Trump won in 2016: West Virginia’s Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats MORE, North Dakota’s Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes MORE and Indiana’s Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Obama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 MORE
 
White House aides have spoken with several other senators by phone. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions What if 2020 election is disputed? Immigration bills move forward amid political upheaval MORE (R-Ky.) said he would likely hold a confirmation vote in the fall before the Supreme Court’s new session begins in October. It would also be before the November midterm elections, when the GOP is looking to hold onto its slim majority in the upper chamber. 
 
While Trump hasn’t discussed possible nominees, some names are believed to include Washington-based federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh, a former clerk to Kennedy, and Amy Coney Barrett, another federal appeals judge. 
 
Finalists from Trump’s first Supreme Court search may also receive another look: Raymond Kethledge, a federal appeals court judge who also clerked for Kennedy, Pittsburgh-based appeals judge Thomas Hardiman, and Ohio-based appeals judge Amul Thapar.
 
The confirmation battle is expected to be the most expensive in history, since the ideological balance of the court is at stake.
 
The conservative Judicial Crisis Network has said it plans to spend at least $1 million on a national cable and digital advertising campaign pressuring Democrats facing for reelection in states that Trump won in 2016.
 

Americans for Prosperity, which serves as the political arm of the network founded by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch, said it will also spend more than $1 million on a campaign “to support a nominee in the mold of Neil Gorsuch.”
 
Liberal groups are also expected to spend significant money making the case that another conservative judge could endanger Roe v. Wade and result in unfavorable rulings in crucial gun-rights and voting-rights cases. 
 
– Alexander Bolton contributed

Updated at 6:16 p.m.