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Trump on Supreme Court Candidates: Roe v. Wade 'Not a Question I'll be Asking Them'

President Trump speaks to reporters onboard Air Force One on June 29, 2018, en route to Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON — President Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to New Jersey today that he plans to announce his pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on July 9, when D.C. returns from the Fourth of July break.

Trump said he plans to interview one or two of “about five” final candidates over the weekend while in Bedminster, and he’ll “probably interview six or seven” altogether before the final announcement. “I like them all,” he said, calling the narrowed selections a group of “highly talented, very brilliant, mostly conservative judges.”

Two of those five are women, he said.

Asked if he was going to discuss Roe v. Wade with the Supreme Court candidates, Trump responded, “That’s not a question I’ll be asking them.”

“Outside of war and peace, of course, the most important decision you make is the selection of a Supreme Court judge, if you get it. As you know, there are many presidents who never get a choice,” he said, noting of Kennedy’s retirement that he was “very honored he decided to do it during my term.”

Trump did discuss one potential candidate with reporters: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who once clerked for Justice Sam Alito.

“He’s an outstanding talent… I actually saw him on television last night, where he said he would love the job. You know, usually, they don’t say that,” Trump said. “We’ve become good friends… very good guy, very talented, very smart.”

Lee’s brother, Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee, was on the original list of 25 potential justices Trump showed to conservatives before the election.

“He is as bright and capable a lawyer and as sharp a legal mind as anyone I’ve ever worked with,” Mike Lee said of his brother Friday. “If he were chosen, it would be to the great benefit of the country.”

The senator said he has talked with the White House about judicial vacancies, but would not say if he is among the front-runners.

Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) told Fox News on Thursday that the “president needs to put forth a nominee” because “Democrats like to put it off so that they can corral their people, and try and get a huge vote against whoever the president nominates. But they are not going to be able to win on that.”

Hatch said he didn’t want to discuss “a number of people” under consideration.

“I wouldn’t want to venture into that. But the list that the president had before, he has about 25 names. Any one of those names would be excellent on the court. And I could support any one of those. And I think any one of them should be supported,” he said.

“But it’s fortunate we have so many good potential nominations and nominees. It just shows that, you know, that the Republicans have done their best to try and get the very best people on the court.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.J.) told CNN that the list is composed of judges “all of whom he believes will overturn Roe v. Wade, and so women’s rights are absolutely on the chopping block.”

“I think this is a survival issue for women,” Gillibrand said.