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

President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll 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 LeePut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products 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 GrassleySmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill MORE (R-Iowa) and two key GOP swing votes, Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill MORE (Alaska) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill MORE (Maine). Also meeting with the president were Democratic senators representing states Trump won in 2016: West Virginia’s Joe ManchinJoe ManchinVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team The Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters MORE, North Dakota’s Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp11 former Democratic senators call for 'meaningful reform to Senate rules' Harry Reid, political pugilist and longtime Senate majority leader, dies Virginia loss lays bare Democrats' struggle with rural voters MORE and Indiana’s Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyFormer Sen. Donnelly confirmed as Vatican ambassador Biden to have audience with pope, attend G20 summit Biden taps former Indiana Sen. Donnelly as ambassador to Vatican MORE
 
White House aides have spoken with several other senators by phone. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team McConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 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.