President Donald Trump is preparing to re-publish a list of potential Supreme Court candidates, which voters can compare to rival Joe Biden's promise to nominate a black woman for the Supreme Court if the chance comes.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters at the White House on Tuesday that Trump's list will be released soon. "I am optimistic that you will see these SCOTUS tips in the coming days," said Meadows, using an acronym for the United States Supreme Court.
The move to publish a list is a repetition of a successful strategy Trump used during his 2016 campaign. Four years ago, he took the unprecedented step of publicizing potential Supreme Court candidates in an attempt to attract Conservatives and Evangelicals who were not enthusiastic about his personal shortcomings but who came to his candidacy on his promises of judicial appointments.
Trump had previously said on Twitter that the announcement of a new list would be made by September 1 and that it "could include some or many of those already on the list". Biden has also said he was working on a list of potential candidates, but the campaign has given no indication that it would publish any names before the November election and that would give Trump and the Republicans the goal of putting Biden on defense . Any vacancy would give the president the opportunity to shape the future of the powerful court currently split between 5 and 4 between Conservatives and Liberals.
However, any list can also be meaningless. Any man's ability to validate a future decision depends on a majority in the Senate, which validates the candidates. Republicans currently have 53 seats in the Chamber for the 45 Democrats, two independents who meet with the Democrats.
Trump released two lists of potential candidates for the Supreme Court during his previous presidential campaign, one with 11 names in May 2016 and one with 10 names in September. Judge Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first candidate for the court, was on the second list. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, his second candidate, was one of five people added to Trump's list in 2017.
Of the people who stay on Trump's list, six are women. It also includes several minorities, including Amul Thapar, who is of South Asian descent. Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young, who is black, and Federico Moreno, a Florida federal judge who is of Spanish descent, are also on the list, though their age makes them unlikely candidates.
Trump recently said that the November presidential election winner could have "between two and four, maybe even five" Supreme Court judges selected based on the age of the current nine judges. He also expressed this view in 2016.
The oldest members of the court are Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 87, and Judge Stephen Breyer, 82, both Liberals, as well as Judges Clarence Thomas, 72, and Judge Samuel Alito, 70, two Conservatives. Ginsburg shared news this summer when she announced she was being treated for cancer recurrence but has no plans to step down.
For his part, Biden hasn't released a list of specific people he would nominate, but his promise to bring a black woman to justice if he has the opportunity narrows the field in many ways. Biden said in late June that work on his list was underway.
“We are compiling a list of a group of African American women who are qualified and experienced in court. I won't publish it until we check it out again, ”he said.
Regardless of the party, presidents tend to look for the same features in potential Supreme Court decisions. Excellent legal references are a must. All current judges attended Harvard or Yale law schools, though Ginsburg left Harvard and graduated from Columbia. All but Justice Elena Kagan was also first a judge on a federal appeals court. And they're typically old enough to have a stellar legal career but young enough to serve for decades. That generally means the nominees are in their late 40s or 50s.
More recently, candidates have also campaigned for a Supreme Court judge, an early sign of legal intelligence. Five of the current judges previously served on the Supreme Court.
Age is a factor that limits Biden's choices. According to a database from the Federal Judicial Center, only five black women are judges in federal appeals courts across the country, and each is 68 years or older this year.
Biden will almost certainly need to find someone with legal experience in another court. One option: Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, a Washington, DC District Court judge Jackson who turns 50 this year, attended Harvard Law School and was reportedly appointed to court by President Barack Obama in 2016 after the death of Justice Antonin Considered Scalia.
Another obvious choice: Judge Leondra Kruger, who sits on the California Supreme Court. A graduate of Yale Law School, she is 44 years old. Both women were also Supreme Court clerks, Kruger to the late Judge John Paul Stevens and Jackson to Breyer.
Associate press reporters Darlene Superville and Bill Barrow contributed to this report.