The White House plans to have a Supreme Court nominee chosen before President Trump leaves for his European trip, Politico reports. Candidates are expected to be interviewed starting early next week, with the White House’s top attorney, Don McGahn, leading the process. The goal is to hold confirmation hearings in August or September, so that any confirmed justice can join the court in early October, before the next term. Top contenders include federal appeals court judges Raymond Kethledge, Thomas Hardiman, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amul Thapar. Trump and other senior administration officials will interview a handful of finalists, similar to how the White House handled the selection of Neil Gorsuch.
Several outside groups, including the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Judicial Crisis Network, are expected to help to push the Republican nomination. The Judicial Crisis Network spent more than $10 million to support the Gorsuch confirmation, and the group’s Carrie Severino predicted that spending would exceed that figure this time around. With Democrats aiming to persuade moderate Republicans to block a nominee, she added, “this nomination will be more contentious.” After months of the president’s dividing his party over thorny issues like immigration and trade, the Kennedy retirement offers a unique opportunity to motivate Trump’s base and to mobilize voters frustrated with Trump to turn out the GOP in the midterm elections anyway. “Republicans have been looking for an issue to ensure their base turns out in November, and I think we’ve found it with the Supreme Court pick,” said Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist and former Trump administration official.