WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he will announce his Supreme Court pick at the end of this week because he wants to wait until after memorial services for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
"We'll make a decision probably Saturday – but Friday or Saturday," Trump told reporters at the White House, and he would like to see the Republican-run Senate vote on his nominee by Election Day on Nov. 3.
"We have plenty of time to do it," Trump said as he left the White House for a campaign trip to Ohio.
Trump also said he may meet with one of the finalists – appeals court Judge Barbara Lagoa – when he stays overnight in Miami on Thursday on a two-day trip; Lagoa is from Florida, a key battleground state.
The decision will probably trigger a political firestorm in the heat of Trump's election battle with Democrat Joe Biden, and both parties pledged to make the future of the high court a major campaign issue.
Trump said five women are being vetted for the high court slot. Aides and advisers have identified two finalists at the top of the list as Lagoa and appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Politics updates, once a day: Get the news distilled, explained and delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up here
Asked if he is leaning toward one candidate or another, Trump said: "I have one or two that I have in mind."
During a morning interview on "Fox & Friends," Trump said of Lagoa: "She's excellent. She's Hispanic ... I don't know her. Florida, we love Florida. So she's got a lot of things. Very smart."
Trump said Barrett's home state of Indiana is "represented very well" in the selection process. Vice President Mike Pence hails from Indiana.
Trump told reporters he has spoken with some of the candidates, but not others; he was not specific.
Senate Democrats said they will try to block the nominee, arguing that the winner of the election should have the right to make the lifetime appointment – an argument Republicans used when a high court vacancy happened before the 2016 presidential election.
It's uncertain whether Senate Republican leaders have enough votes to move forward with any nomination.
In his Fox interview, Trump said, "I'm looking at five – probably four, but I'm looking at five very seriously."
In addition to Barrett and Lagoa, other possibilities include Allison Rushing, a North Carolina-based judge on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Kate Todd, who works in the White House counsel's office.
Trump told Fox he is considering "a great one from Michigan," where appeals court Judge Joan Larsen served on the state Supreme Court.
The president said the Supreme Court issue would be good for Republican senators facing tough reelection battles. He specifically cited Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., though Gardner has not said whether the Senate should vote on a Supreme Court nomination in the midst of an election.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said there should not be a nomination vote before the election.
There will be memorials and services for Ginsburg early in the week, delaying Trump's announcement of a nominee.
Trump and some Republicans see the opening as a historic opportunity for conservatives to consolidate control of the Supreme Court. There are five conservatives on the nine-member court.
If Republicans follow through, Democrats have vowed retaliation should they win control of the Senate in November. Some lawmakers have talked about increasing the size of the Supreme Court and ending the right of the minority to filibuster legislation. If there were more seats on the court, a Democratic president could have a chance to tilt the court in a more liberal direction.
Biden weighed in on the Supreme Court dispute Sunday, delivering a speech in Philadelphia accusing Republicans of hypocrisy in trying to fill the seat this election year even though they blocked Obama's nominee in 2016.
Trying to "jam" through a nominee under these circumstances, Biden said, would represent only "raw political power."
The issue of the court pick has energized Trump's supporters. At a rally Saturday in North Carolina, his supporters chanted, "Fill that seat!" That phrase adorns a T-shirt the Trump campaign sells on its website.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court: Trump says he'll probably announce pick by Saturday