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

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts 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 LeeBiden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Hillicon Valley: Biden nominates former NSA deputy director to serve as cyber czar | Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after all | Biden pressed on semiconductor production amid shortage Apple to send witness to Senate hearing after pushback from Klobuchar, Lee 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 GrassleyChuck GrassleyAnti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire Democrats get good news from IRS MORE (R-Iowa) and two key GOP swing votes, Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Biden picks Obama alum for No. 2 spot at Interior Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Mallory to lead White House environment council | US emissions dropped 1.7 percent in 2019 | Interior further delays Trump rule that would make drillers pay less to feds Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle On The Money: Senate confirms Gensler to lead SEC | Senate GOP to face off over earmarks next week | Top Republican on House tax panel to retire MORE (Maine). Also meeting with the president were Democratic senators representing states Trump won in 2016: West Virginia’s Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHouse committee approves DC statehood bill Romney, Sinema teaming up on proposal to raise minimum wage The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal after pushback MORE, North Dakota’s Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampBill Maher blasts removal of journalist at Teen Vogue Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Harrison seen as front-runner to take over DNC at crucial moment MORE and Indiana’s Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEverybody wants Joe Manchin Centrist Democrats pose major problem for progressives Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big MORE
 
White House aides have spoken with several other senators by phone. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Memo: Biden puts 9/11 era in rear view Anti-Asian hate crimes bill overcomes first Senate hurdle Greitens Senate bid creates headache for GOP 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.