Updated 6:25 p.m. | President Donald Trump told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One late Friday that he intends to announce a Supreme Court nominee on July 9.
“I’ve got it narrowed to about five,” the president said of his list of candidates, adding that two of the possibilities were women.
Earlier in the day, Trump’s senior counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters he could announce his nominee before he departs for summits with NATO allies and then Vladimir Putin. The NATO summit starts July 11.
White House officials also painted a quicker timeline for the nominee’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings and confirmation floor vote than senior Senate GOP leaders.
Marc Short, White House legislative affairs director, said Friday the White House wants to announce a nominee quickly so the Judiciary Committee will be able to vet that person while the pick meets with panel members and other senators in time for confirmation hearings during the “summer.”
Short said the president intends to ask high court candidates about their academic histories and things they have written, but will not ask about specific decisions or cases such as Roe v. Wade.
“There’s not a litmus test or particular questions about X, Y or Z case,” Short said.
Trump confirmed later on Air Force One that did not plan to ask potential candidates specifically about their views on Roe v. Wade, adding that he might conduct a few interviews over the weekend, while at his golf club in Bedminster Township, New Jersey.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, earlier this week said: “The Senate will vote to confirm Justice [Anthony] Kennedy’s successor this fall.” And his top deputy, Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, described a similar process when he said this: “I look forward to voting to confirm Justice Kennedy’s successor this fall.”
McConnell said Friday during a television interview that senators “should be able to work our way through the confirmation process sometime before early fall.”
“Hopefully, in time for the new justice to begin the fall term of the Supreme Court,” which begins in October, he said.
But White House officials are hopeful the Senate will hold a confirmation floor vote in early September, as soon as possible after its Labor Day break, Short told reporters.
There is new speculation that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly could leave his post by the time the new justice is expected to be seated following a Thursday Wall Street Journal report that the retired Marine general is eyeing an exit.
“As far as I know, Gen. Kelly wants to stay and he is staying. He hasn’t said anything differently to me,” Conway said.
White House officials have yet to describe the president’s goals for his summit in Helsinki with Putin that will happen despite ongoing Justice Department and Senate Intelligence Committee probes into possible coordination between his campaign and Russians.
A White House spokeswoman said Thursday that Trump wants to measure whether Putin is even interested in improving frosty relations between the two Cold War rivals. A day later, Conway suggested Trump will try to sway Putin to adopt the U.S. administration’s vision in a Middle East country some experts have described as a proxy conflict between the two.
“But another win would be the president’s vision with respect to Syria,” she said.
And amid Trump’s ongoing trade conflict with allies and rivals, Short told reporters he is “not aware” of any administration plans to withdraw from the World Trade Organization.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.