By Jeff Mason and Andrew Chung
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said he met with four potential Supreme Court justices on Monday, while a person familiar with the selection process said Trump was focused keenly on two people, although others were still in contention.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he will meet with “two or three more” candidates to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced last week that he is retiring.
“We’ll make a decision … over the next few days and we’ll be announcing it on Monday,” Trump said.
He met for 45 minutes with each contender, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Making his second Supreme Court appointment less than 18 months into his presidency will let Trump cement conservative control of the court for years to come. Such a move would likely fire up Trump supporters eager for a rightward shift on divisive social issues such as abortion and gay rights.
Trump’s nominee must win Senate confirmation. Republicans control the chamber by only a slim majority, making the views of moderates, including some Democrats, important.
Federal appeals court judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett have gained the most interest from Trump and his team, said the person familiar with the selection process.
“There is keen interest in those two, but there are at least a couple of others who are still very seriously in the mix,” said the person.
Kavanaugh is a judge on the District of Columbia U.S. Court of Appeals. Barrett was named by Trump to the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The other top potential nominees are Thomas Hardiman, who serves on the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Raymond Kethledge of the Cincinnati, Ohio-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Amul Thapar, whom Trump named to the 6th Circuit.
Trump met with Kavanaugh, Barrett, Thapar and Kethledge on Monday, the Washington Post reported, citing three people briefed on the meetings.
White House Counsel Don McGahn will oversee Trump’s selection process, the White House said on Monday.
McGahn held the same role for the process that led to Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch, who has become one of the most conservative justices on the court.
“Teams of attorneys from the White House Counsel’s Office and Department of Justice are working to ensure the president has all the information he needs to choose his nominee,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington and Andrew Chung in New York; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Lisa Shumaker)