Trump Decides On Supreme Court Pick, Announcement To Come

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Washington: U.S. President Donald Trump again assailed fellow NATO members on Monday for not contributing enough to the alliance while maintaining a trade surplus with the United States, keeping up a drumbeat of criticism before meeting European leaders this week in Brussels.

The Republican president, with an opportunity to further put his stamp on the court with the second appointee of his 18 months in office, is expected to choose among four judges with strong conservative credentials: Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge and Amy Coney Barrett. A source familiar with the process said Trump has made his choice.

All are young enough that they could serve on the nine-member high court for decades. Trump is poised to make his announcement at 9 p.m.

The appointment will not change the ideological breakdown of a court that already has a 5-4 conservative majority, but nevertheless could move the court to the right. Kennedy sometimes joined the liberal justices on key rulings on divisive social issues like abortion and gay rights, a practice his replacement may not duplicate.

Kennedy, 81, announced on June 27 plans to retire after three decades on the court, effective on July 31. Trump’s selection will set up a confirmation showdown in the U.S. Senate, where his fellow Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority, though with ailing Senator John McCain battling cancer in his home state of Arizona they currently can muster only 50 votes. Without Republican defections, however, Senate rules leave Democrats with scant options to block confirmation of Trump’s nominee.

Trump last year appointed Neil Gorsuch, who has already become one of the most conservative justices, after Senate Republicans in 2016 refused to consider Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland to fill a vacancy left by the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. As a result, Democrats have accused Republicans of stealing a Supreme Court seat. Gorsuch restored the court’s conservative majority.

Democrats are certain to press Trump’s latest nominee on the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, a decision some conservatives – particularly conservative Christians – have long wanted to overturn.

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