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President Donald Trump has narrowed his Supreme Court shortlist, according to sources familiar with his interview efforts, and is planning a prime-time event to announce his eventual pick to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Top contenders include federal appeals judges Brett Kavanaugh, Raymond Kethledge, Amul Thapar and Amy Coney Barrett - all of whom spoke with Mr. Trump on Monday.

Last week, Senator Ted Cruz, another Republican conservative, said he had urged Trump to consider nominating Lee, telling the "Michael Berry Show", a radio program, that Lee "would be a justice you could trust to always be faithful to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights". "Mike Lee. I think he would be extraordinary", Cruz told Fox News on the day of Kennedy's retirement.

"Indeed, numerous worst liberal judicial activists, including William Brennan, John Paul Stevens, and Harry Blackmun - the author of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide - were appointed by Republican presidents". Mike Lee (R-Utah) to the post instead "because there is not a single soul out there who can doubt that a Justice Mike Lee would remain true to the convictions he has fought for his entire life".

The president also spoke by phone with Lee on Monday, as first reported by the Deseret News and later confirmed by the senator's office, which characterized it as an interview. "The American people since Trump became president have gone to airports to protect immigrants, they've marched for women's rights". He's the only lawmaker on Trump's list.

Trump's choice to replace Kennedy - a swing vote on the nine-member court - has the potential to remake the court for a generation as part of precedent-shattering decisions on abortion, health care, gay marriage and other issues.

For the right, the blueprint is the successful Senate confirmation of the conservative justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump picked in 2017 to succeed the late Antonin Scalia.

Tobias said federal appeals court judges Raymond Kethledge of MI and Brett Kavanaugh of Maryland are rumored to be the frontrunners to fill the vacant seat. The son of a former US solicitor general, Lee clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, served as a federal prosecutor, and was general counsel to then-Utah Gov. John Huntsman (R.) from 2005 to 2006.

"The Democrats have made pretty clear that even without a nominee that they want to make this a policy issue - that they want to see the policies they want coming from the court", one Judiciary Republican aide says.

Kavanaugh, after serving in the Bush White House, joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006 after Democrats held up his nomination process for three years.

"The way we're looking at it is this: If we do a good enough job, we'll make it obvious enough that Collins or Murkowski will be the deciding vote on whether Roe v. Wade is overturned", one Democratic aide tells TIME, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case on abortion.