President Donald Trump is preparing to announce his pick for the Supreme Court, and recent reports suggest he is still deciding who will be his nominee for the high court.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, 81, is retiring from the Supreme Court at the end of July, writing in a letter to the president that "it is the highest of honors to serve on this Court." Kennedy was a key swing vote on issues such as abortion, affirmative action, gay rights and voting rights.
Kennedy's departure gives Trump an opportunity to nominate his second justice to the high court, and will likely cement a conservative majority for the foreseeable future. The president's first high court nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed in April 2017 after Republicans changed the rules of the Senate to push through the nomination and refused to consider the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Court by President Barack Obama when Obama still had 11 months left in his term.
President Trump is reportedly deciding between four candidates and recently narrowed the field to two judges, according to the New York Times. The president has selected four judges from a list crafted during the campaign with heavy input from the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. Trump is scheduled to address the country at 9 p.m. ET; here is a look at the potential nominees:
Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Kavanaugh, 53, is one of the front runners for the open position on the high court and even clerked for Kennedy, the man he could be replacing. He is a Yale Law School graduate and has been a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals judge since 2006; he also worked in the solicitor general's office in the George H.W. Bush administration and was an assistant to Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.
Kavanaugh is reportedly the favorite of White House counsel Don McGahn. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed concern that Kavanaugh's long-tenure as a D.C. Circuit judge could result in too many documents for the Senate to examine, which could give the Senate Democrats an opportunity to delay the confirmation vote, the New York Times reported.
Judge Thomas Hardiman
Hardiman, 53, is the other front runner whom the president is considering. He is the first person in his family to go to college; attending the University of Notre Dame for his undergraduate degree and then went on to get his law degree at Georgetown University.
Hardiman became a federal district judge after being nominated by George W. Bush in 2003 and was later appointed to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in 2007.
"Hardiman is a solid, although hardly knee-jerk, conservative who was active in Republican politics before joining the federal bench," SCOTUSBlog, a blog that closely follows the Supreme Court, wrote in 2017.
The president's sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a former colleague of Hardiman, has pressed the president to choose him, according to the New York Times.
Judge Amy Coney Barrett
Barrett, 46, is the only female being considered for the open position on the Supreme Court, and if selected, she would be considered the only conservative female justice.
The Notre Dame Law School graduate is a relative newcomer after being narrowly approved last year to her first judicial posting. Before serving she was a professor at Notre Dame Law School.
Barrett has been open about the importance of her Catholic faith and in her belief that life begins at conception. She has also expressed a willingness to overturn precedent, which has led supporters and detractors to believe she would vote to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that established a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
"I tend to agree with those who say that a justice's duty is to the Constitution and that is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks is clearly in conflict with it," Barrett wrote in 2013.
Given her stance on abortion, Senator McConnell told Trump that by picking her, he risks losing support from moderate Republican senators, namely Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Still, the New York Times reports that Barrett has the support of Fox News host Sean Hannity, who played golf with the president over the weekend.
Judge Raymond Kethledge
Last, but not least, is Kethledge, 51, who has also clerked for Kennedy. The 51-year-old is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Michigan. The conservative jurist is "known for incisive legal commentary and weeding out bureaucratic overreach in his opinions," according to the Detroit Free Press. Notably, he has not weighed in on several high-profile issues, including abortion and affirmative action.
According to the New York Times, Kethledge and Barrett were not the focus of the president's morning discussions.