Not so hush-hush search: Trump airs thinking on court seat

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President Donald Trump reacts after a campaign rally Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, in Moon Township, Pa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – Barack Obama spent hours reading legal briefs as he mulled candidates for the Supreme Court. Bill Clinton savored building a personal connection with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And Ronald Reagan offered a personal touch in making his case for Anthony Kennedy after his first two picks for a vacancy went sideways.

President Donald Trump has a style all his own for selecting a nominee for the high court. He's flying by the seat of his pants with his frequent public deliberations on replacing Ginsburg, a process that’s moving at warp speed.

In recent history, the process of picking a nominee has been notable for hush-hush meetings with finalists, presidents looking to cement a personal connection with their pick, invasive vetting and carefully planned media relations blitzes to support the nominee.

Trump is holding little back, readily airing his thinking on the state of the deliberations.

He's acknowledged the potential political benefits of those he might pick — his short list includes candidates from battleground states Florida and Michigan. The prospect of establishing a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court offers him a chance to energize supporters six weeks before Election Day.

Current and former advisers to Trump, who says he's considering five women, say the process for the president comes down to answering two general questions: Does the person have the judicial temperament to satisfy and spark his conservative base ahead of the Nov. 3 election and is she able to handle what is certain to be a bruising confirmation fight?

“When the president interviews these five, he’s asking, ‘Is this person sitting in front of me tough enough to take what’s coming?’” said Joe Grogan, the president’s former White House domestic policy director. "What lays ahead will be brutal.""

Trump, who has promised to announce his nomination Saturday, remains in close consultation with staff, but he’s not playing an aggressive hands-on role in vetting finalists or asking specific questions about their backgrounds or specific rulings, according to one person involved in the process who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.