July 3, 2018 / 5:39 PM / 15 days ago

Trump speaks with three more possible Supreme Court candidates

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump interviewed three possible candidates to fill a coming vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the White House said, a day after he spoke to Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah about the job.

White House spokesman Raj Shah did not identify the three people interviewed on Tuesday.

Trump has spoken to seven candidates so far, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said, correcting his earlier statement that the president had interviewed eight people.

Trump has said he will name a nominee on July 9 to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Trump kicked off the interview process on Monday with four candidates.

He spoke by phone with Lee on Monday, a spokesman for the senator said on Tuesday. The White House confirmed the call but did not disclose what they discussed.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court is seen as the court nears the end of its term in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Erin Schaff/File Photo

The senator was in Utah at the time of Trump’s call, his spokesman Conn Carroll said, adding that he knew no further details.

Lee and his brother, Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Rex Lee, are both on Trump’s list of potential nominees.

A person familiar with the selection process said Trump was focused on two people, federal appeals court judges Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, but others were still in contention.

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. His nominee must win Senate confirmation. Republicans control the chamber by only a slim majority, making the views of moderates, including some Democrats, important.

Lee, a conservative lawyer and Tea Party favorite, said last week that he “would not say no” if Trump asked him to serve on the court as Kennedy’s replacement.

“I started watching Supreme Court arguments for fun when I was 10 years old. So if somebody asked me if I would consider that, I would not say no,” Lee, 47, told reporters, according to The Hill.

Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee who was elected to the Senate in 2010, served as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Judge Samuel Alito. Lee also was an assistant U.S. attorney in Salt Lake City and general counsel to former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, as well as serving as a lawyer in private practice.

U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) speaks at the Utah County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner, in Provo, Utah, U.S. February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz, another Republican conservative, said he had urged Trump to consider nominating Lee, telling the “Michael Berry Show,” a radio program, that Lee “would be a justice you could trust to always be faithful to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”

Reporting by Doina Chiacu, James Oliphant and Jeff Mason; Editing by Leslie Adler

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