Aboard Air Force One, June 29, 2018 – President Donald Trump said on Friday he plans to announce his nominee to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy on July 9, and that he has narrowed his list of candidates.
“I’ve got it down to about five,” Trump said, including two women.
He would not identify the candidates by name. “It’s a great group of intellectual talent … they are generally conservative,” Trump said.
When asked about several specific potential nominees mentioned in recent days, including federal jurists Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, and U.S. Senator Mike Lee from Utah, Trump said each was “outstanding.”
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One en route from Washington to his private golf club in New Jersey, Trump said he may interview two contenders for the nomination this weekend.
Trump said he not will push the candidates to say whether they would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s right to abortion.
“That’s not a question I’ll be asking,” he said.
He also said he would not discuss gay rights with the candidates, and that he might interview as many as seven people.
While Kennedy was a conservative, he proved to be a somewhat unpredictable “swing” vote over his long career. For example, he sided with the court’s liberals by voting in favor of abortion rights and gay rights in key cases. Views on abortion was expected to be one that senators will ask the new nominee about in confirmation hearings, even if the president does not.
Trump’s nominee must win confirmation by the Senate. Republicans control the chamber but only by a slim majority, making the views of moderates, including some Democrats, important.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Friday he hoped the confirmation process would be done “in time for the new justice to begin the fall term of the Supreme Court … the first Monday in October.”
White House aide Marc Short said on MSNBC that the White House hoped for a Senate confirmation vote in September.
That would put a new justice in place before the congressional midterm elections in November, when all seats in the House of Representatives and a third of those in the Senate will be contested.
Trump met on Thursday with senators from both parties at the White House to discuss the court vacancy created by the retirement of Kennedy, which was announced on Wednesday.
Kennedy’s replacement could cast a deciding vote on limiting or ending the right to abortion.
“I do not apply ideological litmus tests to nominees, but I want to see integrity, intellect, a respect for precedent and adherence to the rule of law,” moderate Republican Senator Susan Collins told Reuters when asked about Roe v. Wade.
Collins, who favors a woman’s right to choose on abortion, joined like-minded Republican Lisa Murkowski at the White House meeting. Also attending were Republican Charles Grassley and Democrats Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp.
Democrat Bill Nelson, asked by reporters if a nominee’s views on Roe v. Wade will be important to him, said, “very.” – Reuters
U.S. forces chief says South Korea paid for 90 percent of biggest overseas base
Pyeontaek, South Korea, June 29, 2019 – The chief of the U.S. military forces commended South Korea for shouldering nearly all the cost of building the largest U.S. overseas military base, in a speech at the formal opening of the new headquarters in Pyeongtaek.
“This was a project that cost nearly $10.8 billion to build over 10 years and the Republic of Korea investment was over 90 percent of the cost,” Commander Vincent Brooks said at the base, around 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Seoul.
“For that 90 percent, the United States remains with you 100 percent.”
U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly stressed since before taking office that Seoul should burden more of the expenses needed for the upkeep of some 28,500 U.S. troops in South Korea.
After his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, Trump made a surprise announcement that the United States will stop joint military drills with South Korea, saying they are “very expensive” and paid for mostly by Washington.
Officials in both the United States and South Korea have declined to specify how much the exercises cost each party.
The two countries are currently in talks over how to share the costs of keeping the U.S. troops in South Korea starting 2019. An existing accord, signed in 2014 and due to expire at the end of 2018, requires Seoul to pay about 960 billion won ($856.6 million) this year.
The previous headquarters of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) had been located at the heart of Seoul since the 1950-53 Korean conflict, which had ended in a ceasefire and not a peace treaty.
Brooks has said the joint U.S.-South Korean Combined Forces Command (CFC) will remain in Seoul, moving into the South’s defense ministry complex. Brooks commands both the USFK and CFC.
The USFK’s previous base in Seoul will be transformed into a public park.
The base in Pyeongtaek, Camp Humphreys, is the largest overseas U.S. base in the world, straddling an area of 14.7 million square meters.
It is also the largest in terms of personnel. As of April 30, the base had 19,904 U.S. personnel in total, according to the USFK, which expects the population to reach 27,702 by the end of 2021.
The relocation project, initiated in 2004, initially intended to streamline and incorporate some 40 U.S. bases across South Korea into Pyeongtaek and the southern city of Daegu by 2008.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in lauded the opening of the new headquarters, saying recent steps toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula were only possible due to the deterrent provided by the US-South Korea alliance, and the allies’ efforts to engage North Korea diplomatically. – Reuters