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The most important qualities Trump will seek in a Justice Kennedy replacement

The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy sets up the Senate for a likely bruising political fight. Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Amna Nawaz to discuss who is on President Trump’s list of candidates, what lawmakers will be looking for and how quickly a new justice could be confirmed.

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    And with that Supreme Court vacancy comes a new round of politics.

    White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins join me now for more on the battle ahead.

    And it promises to be a real battle.

    Yamiche, let's start with you.

    Tell me a little bit now about where the White House is. It's going to be up to President Trump to put forward a new name. He had a list he was working off they published last year.

    What do we know about a potential nominee?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    The most important thing to President Trump is that this next nominee be someone who's young, pro-life and very conservative.

    President Trump put out this list of nominees when he was still a candidate, before he won the presidency. It was a bold move that was very unusual. And he did that because he wanted to signal to conservatives who were wavering on whether or not they wanted to elect this businessman without a lot of political experience, he wanted to signal, I have your back, I'm going to do something that is very critical for conservatives.

    A lot of the people on that list came from the Federalist Society. It's an organization of conservatives that are really looking at retooling the American legal system.

    The other thing I want to point out is just who these people are, right, because I think that's the big question. There are six women and 19 men. That's really important because President Trump has been known for nominating a lot of white men to the federal courts. So it's really important to say that.

    There's only one — well, at least from my count, there's one black person. There's one judge that's the first South Asian judge to be on a federal court. So, that's really important. So, there is some diversity there.

    There is one judge who actually mocked the president on Twitter. He was making fun of him, so I don't think he's going to be high on the list. He's a judge in Texas.

    And then there's also a senator. Mike Lee of Utah is someone who is being considered. But the sources that I talk to you at the White House say that the number one thing is that that person be conservative, but of course they have to kind of make it not as conservative.

    Lisa, I'm sure, will tell us exactly why, because there's going to be a lot of jockeying in Congress about that.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Well, let's talk about that, Lisa.

    What are Republicans — because this guy is going to have get — this man or woman, I should say, she would have to get through Senate confirmation. What do they want to see in a candidate, in a nominee?

  • Lisa Desjardins:


    Republicans, absolutely, I think abortion is a number one issue. It remains a number one issue when talking about courts at all levels, especially the Supreme Court. But there's a real tricky strategy at play here, because, right now, with Senator McCain at home in Arizona, still sick, now we have a Senate where there are — the Republicans can only lose one of their members to maintain their majority.

    It's technically 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats. Among those 50 Republicans, you have Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Those are two women who have said they support Roe vs. Wade and they have also supported Planned Parenthood.

    Now, it's interesting. They both voted for Neil Gorsuch. Why? Susan Collins said at the time she believed that he wouldn't rule based on his personal beliefs, which we understood to be anti-abortion. So, this candidate, to make it through this Senate, a nominee, may have to thread a needle here, be considered conservative on life issues and somewhat anti-abortion, but not too much, because these two women need to support them.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, there's a careful consideration that has to be made here.

    Yamiche, do we know that the White House from the folks you have talked to want to take their time and kind of consider the options and maybe feel out where the rest of the world is, or do they want to rush ahead kind of full steam ahead?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Yes, the president is leading the charge on this getting done as soon as possible.

    The White House wants this done. Because the president already has his list, he's said that he's going to definitely come — he's going to choose someone from this list. Today, I talked to Marc Short, who is the legislative director. He is going to be one of the people who is shepherding through who this nominee is.

    And he said, we want this to be done something that gets done fairly quickly. He said that, obviously, the Senate is going to decide what that is. But because they're meeting over the summer, he's saying that we hope that, since Congress is going to be in session this summer, that they will take the issue up.

    The other thing that's really important is that President Trump is heading to Fargo, North Dakota, today. And I wanted to mention that because the president, while he hasn't said much about how he feels about this, we know, once he gets out on that — in front of those crowds, he's going to be screaming about, this is why this election mattered, because there's all these issues.


  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    There's immigration. He just won the travel ban ruling.

    There's the issue of campaign finance. His voters are very much fired up about the Supreme Court. And polls show that Republicans often really, really care about this issue of the Supreme Court.

    So, his voters are very — are going to be very much motivated by this. And it's going to be a midterm issue. The White House is looking at the midterms and saying, even if we get a nominee before the midterms happen, we can then go on the campaign trail and say, look what President Trump did for conservatives. He got two conservatives on the Supreme Court.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    It's a big battle ahead.

    Yamiche Alcindor, Lisa Desjardins, thanks for being here.

    We will have more on Justice Kennedy's legacy on the court later in the program.

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