President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday
his team has met with numerous candidates to fill the
longstanding U.S. Supreme Court vacancy and promised a decision
on a nominee within about two weeks of taking office on Jan. 20.
Trump, during a news conference in New York, indicated the
importance he attached to the selection of a replacement for
conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last Feb. 13. The
Republican-led Senate then refused to consider President Barack
Obama's nominee to the post, appeals court judge Merrick
"It will be a decision which I very strongly believe in. I
think it's one of the reasons I got elected," said Trump, who
previously vowed to pick a jurist similar to Scalia, who was one
of the most conservative members of the nine-seat court.
Trump said he would make his announcement "probably within
two weeks of the 20th ... probably the second week." He did not
mention any of the potential picks by name or state exactly how
many have had interviews, but said, "We've met with numerous
candidates. They were outstanding in every case."
Trump said he would pick from names suggested to him by
conservative legal groups. Trump said he had a list of 20 names.
The original list his presidential campaign made public included
21 names. Trump specifically mentioned input from the Federalist
Society and Republican former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint.
Scalia's death left the top U.S. court ideologically split
with four conservatives and four liberals.
Scalia's replacement could tilt the ideological leaning of
the court for years to come, restoring the long-standing
conservative majority just at a time when it appeared liberals
would get an upper hand on the bench. This could be pivotal in
wide range of issues including abortion, the death penalty,
religious rights, presidential powers, transgender rights,
federal regulations and others.
The U.S. Constitution calls on the president to nominate
members of the Supreme Court, with confirmation of the selection
in the hands of the Senate. The Republican-led Senate, in a move
with little precedent in U.S. history, refused to consider
Democrat Obama's nominee, saying the winner of the Nov. 8
presidential election between Republican Trump and Democrat
Hillary Clinton should make the pick.
The court is in the midst of its current term, which started
in October and ends in June.