President Trump on Friday was leaning toward nominating federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, according to reports citing sources familiar with the process.
The White House has indicated in conversations that Barrett was Trump’s intended choice to replace the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but cautioned that he could still change his mind, the sources told CNN.
Barrett was spotted Friday at her home in South Bend, Ind., but it’s unclear if she’s aware of Trump’s intentions, CNN said. The New York Times also reported Trump had made Coney Barrett his choice.
Supreme Court nominees are often informed of their selection at the last possible moment to maintain secrecy.
Trump has repeatedly said that he was going to pick a woman and make a formal announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House at 5 p.m. Saturday.
If Barrett replaces Ginsburg, who was the Supreme Court’s leading liberal voice, she would give the conservative wing a 6-3 majority.
At 48, she would also be the youngest member of the high court and could help maintain its conservative majority for decades.
The revelation of Trump’s reported intentions came just hours after Ginsburg’s body lay in state at the US Capitol, making her the first woman and the first Jewish person to receive the posthumous honor.
Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18 of metastatic pancreatic cancer at 87, will reportedly be buried next week in Arlington National Cemetery, next to her late husband, Marty Ginsburg, who died in 2010.
The move to replace Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election has sparked outrage from Democrats because US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) blocked then-President Barack Obama’s nomination of federal appeals Judge Merrick Garland in 2016 on grounds that it was an election year.
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate and two GOP members — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine — have objected to fast-tracking Ginsburg’s replacement, but no others appear ready to break ranks.
Earlier this week, Trump called on Republican senators to quickly confirm whoever he nominated so the Supreme Court has a full bench of nine justices to rule on a likely legal battle over mail-in votes cast in his race against former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden.
“I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it’s a scam,” he said Wednesday.
“This scam will be before the United States Supreme Court and I think having the four-four situation is not a good situation if you get that.”
Trump said Monday that he was considering five women, including Coney Barrett and another federal appeals court judge, Barbara Lagoa.
He also said he might meet with Lagoa during a trip to the Sunshine State, but CNN reported that Barrett — who was at the White House on Monday and Tuesday — was the only candidate on his shortlist who met with him in person.
In 2017, Trump nominated Barrett, then a Notre Dame law professor, to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, and she was confirmed by the US Senate in a near-party-line vote of 55-43.
Barrett was also reportedly on his shortlist to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in 2018 after the jurist announced his retirement at age 81.
But Barrett’s White House interview didn’t go well, NPR reported Thursday, citing a source who said she had to wear dark glasses due to a case of conjunctivitis and was “not at her best.”
Trump ultimately nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, who was confirmed by a narrow 50-48 margin following a grueling, four-day hearing during which he emotionally denied Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation that he sexually assaulted her while drunk at a party when they were teenagers.
A report last year in Axios suggested Trump still had big plans for Barrett, based on private comments he reportedly made to confidants while discussing Kennedy’s replacement.
“I’m saving her for Ginsburg,” Trump said in remarks confirmed this week by NPR.
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