Trump weighs 2 or 3 candidates for court, to meet with Pence


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is closing in on his choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, telling reporters he's focused on two or three people ahead of his Monday announcement.

"I think I have it down to four people. And I think of the four people I have it down to three or two," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday, as he traveled to a campaign rally in Montana.

Trump was at his private golf club in New Jersey today and planned to spend the weekend there, consulting with advisers as he picks his court nominee amid intense jockeying from various factions seeking to influence the choice. The president planned to have dinner tonight with Vice President Mike Pence, who has also been meeting with candidates as part of the vetting process.

The president's top contenders include federal appeals court judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge, with federal appeals court judge Thomas Hardiman still considered in the mix. As part of the roll-out process, the White House has been preparing information packages on all four, said two people familiar with the process who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Starting from a list of 25 names vetted by conservative groups, Trump has also given serious consideration to federal appeals court judges Amul Thapar and Joan Larsen, and it's possible the White House will prepare materials for more people.

The president enjoyed the suspenseful process leading up to his announcement last year that he would nominate Justice Neil Gorsuch and is hoping to keep the guessing game going until he announces his pick Monday night.

Trump's social media director Dan Scavino tweeted today the announcement would be at 9 p.m. from the East Room in the White House.

Pence met in person with Kethledge and Barrett while he was vacationing in Indiana earlier this week and met with Kavanaugh at the Naval Observatory on July 4, said a person familiar with the process who was not authorized to speak publicly. Pence has also spoken to Republican senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul about the process.

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