Pence met in person with Kethledge and Barrett while he was vacationing in IN earlier this week and met with Kavanaugh at the Naval Observatory on Wednesday, said a person familiar with the process who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
As the president mulled his choices, activists on both sides were gearing up for what promises to be a titanic confirmation battle over Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement.
Collins said Trump told her at the meeting last week that he would not ask the candidates about whether they would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. "I doubt it. Unlikely". Trump has been interviewing candidates drawn from a 25-person list created by the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative and libertarian-leaning lawyers.
Trump appears to have narrowed his search to a select group of USA appeals court judges, including top contenders Brett Kavanaugh of the District of Columbia Circuit, Raymond Kethledge of the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit and Amy Coney Barrett of the Chicago-based 7th Circuit.
They say whomever President Donald Trump selects must explicitly say they support the rights to abortion, to use contraceptives and to marry someone of the same gender.
After he won the election, Trump continued to say the judges he would appoint would be "pro-life" judges and that if Roe was overturned, the question of abortion would be settled by individual states.
Trump has spent the weekend discussing his options with allies and will announce his pick at 9 p.m. EDT Monday from the White House.
A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that 31 percent of voters believe Trump's nominee should make the high court more conservative.
Kavanaugh and Kethledge are seen as favorites, if only because Trump is asking more questions about them, sources said.
For some Senate lawmakers, however, Kavanaugh's demurral on the abortion law could help him win their votes for confirmation.
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.
Barrett - a longtime Notre Dame Law School professor who became a federal appeals judge last fall - excited social conservatives with her testimony when she was questioned about her Roman Catholic faith in her nomination hearings a year ago. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
So what sort of extreme conservative might be preferable to have on the Supreme Court, if that must be our choice? Barrett, 46, has served on the Chicago-based court only since November. He conducted interviews on Monday and Tuesday and has spoken to seven possible candidates. An avid fisherman and hunter, he is known in part for his vivid writing style, which he practices from a remote cabin near Lake Huron that lacks Internet access.
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. His departure will leave a hole in the middle of the court that Republicans are eager to fill with a more reliable conservative.
With the Senate narrowly divided, 51-49, in favour of Republicans, Trump's announcement will set off a contentious confirmation process as Republicans seek to shift the court to the right and Democrats strive to block that effort.
On Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate Republican from ME, reiterated that she could not vote for a nominee with a "demonstrated hostility" to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a woman's right to an abortion. That led McConnell to push through a rules change allowing justices to be confirmed with simple majority votes.
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