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Donald Trump says he’s narrowed Supreme Court nominees to 2 or 3

Maine Sen. Susan Collins won’t support any Supreme Court nominee looking to overturn Roe v. Wade

Vice President Mike Pence also met with some of Trump's contenders in recent days, according to a person familiar with the search process. Among those still under consideration is Judge Amul Thapar, named by Trump previous year to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey reported Friday morning that Trump knows Kavanaugh is "seen as the conventional front-runner" to replace Kennedy and that the president is "being pushed to choose him". "And I think of the four people I have it down to three or two", Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One Thursday, as he traveled to a campaign rally in Montana.

President Trump has promised to announce his nominee to fill Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's vacated seat by Monday, June 9.

Schumer privately urged the president in a phone call earlier this week to nominate federal judge Merrick B. Garland, who was Obama's third nominee to the Supreme Court and was summarily shunned by Senate Republicans in 2016. Any GOP defections could begin to doom a nominee.

Working closely with a White House team and consulting with lawmakers and outside advisers, Trump has spent the week deliberating on the choice.

Arguing that "the faithful application of the Constitution is the bedrock of our freedom", the president said his pick will also have "impeccable credentials, great intellect, unbiased judgement and deep reverence for the laws and Constitution of the United States".

The president made abortion and appointing anti-abortion justices a signature campaign promise of his successful 2016 run, even appearing at the annual "March for Life" against abortion rights in Washington, D.C. previous year.

McConnell said Thursday at an event in Louisville he believes "the president will make a very high-quality appointment". The four judges who were appointed by Democratic presidents have an average age of 71.5 years, nearly five years more than on the Republican side. He conducted interviews on Monday and Tuesday.

Even as the focus narrowed Thursday to the three apparent finalists from Trump's list of 25, one source said the possibility of a wild-card nominee can not be discounted.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at the conservative National Review, penned an op-ed in Bloomberg, pushing for Mr. Trump to pick Judge Barrett, the only woman among the apparent finalists, especially with abortion rights at the center of the confirmation battle. It is our conviction that the best nominee on your list of 25 prospects is Judge Amy Coney Barrett. He cited former justices William Brennan, John Paul Stevens and Harry Blackmun, who authored the Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman's right to abortion.

Cruz said Lee would be a "sure thing".

It now appears the list of seven initial contenders to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy is down to two or three. They described his view of her as "positive", since he appointed her, but noted that he sees Kavanaugh and Kethledge as similar to Gorsuch, another former Kennedy clerk, whose tenure has been celebrated by his supporters and whose judicial records are largely acceptable to most wings of the Republican Party.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) questions Barrett on her Catholic faith and whether it would influence her decisions on the federal appeals court in her confirmation hearing in September, 2017.

Kethledge graduated from the University of Michigan and received his law degree from the University of Michigan Law School. Recognizing the stakes, many Democrats have lined up in opposition to any President Trump pick, and Republican lawmakers and activists are seeking to shape the president's decision.

More immediately, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, will be crucial to stopping a Trump nominee, or at least delaying a vote until after the election.