Trump says he'll announce a Supreme Court nominee 'Friday or Saturday'
Trump says in Monday interview he wants to be respectful of any services held for Ruth Bader Ginsburg
President Donald Trump on Monday prepared to push ahead with plans for his third U.S. Supreme Court nomination, which would cement a 6-3 conservative majority, as some Republicans wavered on whether to support the move weeks ahead of an election.
The death of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg upended the campaign season, giving Trump and his party an opportunity to strengthen its grip on the court. Its decisions influence most spheres of American life, from health care to gun rights to voting access.
Conversations in the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's office are increasingly focused on two finalists: Amy Coney Barrett, who was at the White House on Monday, and Barbara Lagoa, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the private deliberations. Trump himself confirmed they were among the top contenders.
Barrett has long been a favourite of conservatives and was a strong contender for the seat that eventually went in 2018 to Brett Kavanaugh. At the time, Trump told confidants he was "saving" Barrett for Ginsburg's seat.
Trump said he is planning to name his pick by Friday or Saturday, ahead of the first presidential election debate. He told reporters he wanted to wait until services for Ginsburg were finished.
Ginsburg's casket is to be on view mid-week on the iconic steps outside the court and later privately at the Capitol. She is to be buried next week in a private service at Arlington National Cemetery.
Democrats, led by presidential nominee Joe Biden, are protesting the Republicans' rush to replace Ginsburg, saying voters should speak first, on Election Day, Nov. 3, and the winner of the White House should fill the vacancy.
Trump dismissed those arguments, telling Fox News, "We won the election and we have the right to do [it], so we have plenty of time, a lot of time."
Ginsburg, who was 87, will lie in repose outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday so members of the public can pay their respects, the court said in a statement.
A private ceremony to be attended by Ginsburg's family, friends and other Supreme Court justices will take place at the court on Wednesday morning, the statement said.
A separate private ceremony will take place Friday as the casket will be placed in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Ginsburg will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in a private ceremony next week.
Accusations of GOP hypocrisy
Democrats accused McConnell of hypocrisy for being eager to usher a Trump nominee to a confirmation vote. In February 2016, he refused to hold a vote in the Republican-led Senate for a nominee of Democratic President Barack Obama following the death of conservative Antonin Scalia, saying it would be inappropriate in an election year.
McConnell said the circumstances are different this year, as the same party is in control of both the Senate and the White House. Senior Republican members of the Senate's judiciary committee, Lindsey Graham and Chuck Grassley, echoed that sentiment.
But at least two Republican senators — Maine's Susan Collins and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski — said over the weekend that the Senate should not vote on a nominee so close to an election, the first dissent against the idea from McConnell's 53-47 majority.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney has not commented on the process since Ginsburg's death, but previously expressed a similar reluctance when asked hypothetically.
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Trump's rival in the Nov. 3 contest, Democratic former vice-president Joe Biden, called on other Republican senators to join them and allow the winner of the upcoming election to name the next Supreme Court justice.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Sunday found that a majority of Americans — some 62 per cent, including about half of Republicans polled — agreed with that sentiment.
Potential 3rd justice for Trump
Biden said in his remarks on Sunday that Trump's effort to push a nomination through the Senate just weeks ahead of the election amounted to "an exercise of raw political power."
"I am not going to assume failure at this point," Biden said. "This vote, this fight, this nomination will not be over until the Senate votes, if it does vote. And winning that vote, if it happens, is everything."
Polls show Biden leading Trump and also show that Democrats have a chance of recapturing control of the Senate — posing a difficult choice for embattled Republican incumbents themselves facing competitive re-election races.
Voting has already begun in about a half-dozen states, and the number of Americans who cast ballots early or by mail is expected to rise sharply this year due to the coronavirus.
WATCH l Republicans sing different tune than in 2016:
Trump has already appointed two justices: Neil Gorsuch in 2017 and Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed after a heated confirmation process in which he angrily denied accusations by a California university professor, Christine Blasey Ford, that he had sexually assaulted her in 1982, when the two were high school students in Maryland.
Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan each placed four justices for the Supreme Court, but since Reagan's presidency in 1989, no president has helped place more than two on the top court's bench.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press