By Maggie Haberman
© 2018 New York Times News Service
President Donald Trump has decided on his nominee to the Supreme Court after spending Monday morning working the phones primarily seeking input about two judges who were said to be the finalists, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Thomas M. Hardiman, people familiar with the discussions said.
Trump had been going back and forth between Kavanaugh, the favorite of White House counsel Don McGahn, and Hardiman, whom the president’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, a former colleague of Hardiman’s, has pressed him to choose.
Two other candidates for the seat of retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy — Judge Amy Coney Barrett and Judge Raymond Kethledge — were not the focus of Trump’s morning discussions, according to those familiar with the discussions.
The drama-focused president is going to announce his choice for the Kennedy seat in a Monday night address to the country at 9 p.m. He said Sunday that he hoped to have made a decision by noon Monday.
The president has been lobbied in the final hours of his selection process by both supporters and opponents of the four candidates, all of whom are federal appeals court judges with conservative records.
Barrett, the only woman under consideration, has the support of Sean Hannity, the Fox News host and close Trump ally, who played golf with the president in New Jersey on Sunday.
Kethledge also has supporters. But he has a comparatively thin record of judicial opinions. And Hardiman, the first in his family to graduate from college, has the kind of personal story that appeals to many Trump supporters.
But it is Kavanaugh who has been the focus of much of the lobbying, both for and against him. Besides McGahn, he has the support of some Republicans who admire his record as a lawyer working with independent counsel Ken Starr in the investigation of President Bill Clinton and later in the George W. Bush White House as well as his conservative record as a judge.
But that element of his record is among the reasons that some Republicans in Congress are concerned about a confirmation hearing in the Senate. Others have expressed concern about how Kavanaugh would vote on cases related to the health care law.