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Late last week the president told reporters he would name his nominee to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, July 9 , shortly before leaving for Europe for meetings with NATO allies and then with Vladimir Putin. It is, to put it mildly, a big, big decision that will almost surely trigger a loud and divisive confirmation fight and, assuming Republicans win it, a major change in the balance of power on the Court.

So unsurprisingly, there’s already massive speculation about Trump’s choice. What makes it all a bit easier than is usually the case is that the 45th president put together an official list of 25 SCOTUS prospects (issued last November) who have been vetted by the conservative legal activists of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation. The integrity of that list has been extremely important to Trump’s relationship with the conservative movement and particularly with conservative Christian leaders. It is very unlikely he will even think about going beyond the list (despite Senator Susan Collins’s suggestion that he expand it to include a pro-choice option, which is even less likely since it would be immediately denounced as a huge betrayal by the anti-abortion lobby that gave Trump crucial backing in 2016).

But given the vast amount of time conservatives inside and beyond the administration have had to peruse the list, and the speed with which confirmation needs to proceed if the new justice is indeed going to be approved before the next SCOTUS term begins in October, a shortlist has probably been in place for months. Trump himself has he’s got somewhere between five and seven names in mind (depending on the particular moment he spoke), “including two women.” Two very confidently expressed “shortlists” have come from
(Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, Amul Thapar, Joan Larsen, and Raymond Kethledge) and from The Weekly Standard ’s MultiWear Wrap Mother amp; Daughter 10 by VIDA VIDA byL4pzfbx9
(the same list without Larsen and with Thomas Hardiman).

All six of these “most mentioned” SCOTUS prospects are, of course, from the White House list of 25, which means they have been carefully pre-vetted to detect any heresy from conservative legal orthodoxy (including the belief that the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion was an abomination from a constitutional if not a moral point of view). It is a safe bet that none of them would arouse the kind of conservative backlash that, for example, met George W. Bush nominee Harriet Myers, forced to withdraw on purely political grounds before she even reached confirmation hearings. They are all relatively young by SCOTUS standards, ranging in ages from 46 (Barrett) to 53 (Kavanaugh), reflecting the conservative/Trump desire that this appointment place a stamp on the Court for decades to come. And so far as we know at this point, all six are free of the kind of personal or professional skeletons-in-the-closet that have ensnared some SCOTUS nominees in the past (including, most notably, the sexual harassment allegations that nearly brought down current Justice Clarence Thomas).

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