Trump focused on Kavanaugh, Kethledge for Supreme Court: source

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Conservative federal appeals court judges Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge are the two most serious contenders who President Donald Trump is considering for the U.S. Supreme Court, a source familiar with the process said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Supreme Court is seen as the court nears the end of its term in Washington, U.S., June 11, 2018. REUTERS/Erin Schaff/File Photo

Kavanaugh is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Kethledge, of Michigan, is a judge on the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The source told Reuters that Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, was still in contention but that the Republican president had been asking more questions about the other two, who have more extensive judicial records.

Trump, who conducted interviews with seven candidates earlier this week for the lifetime post on the top U.S. judicial body, is expected to announce his decision on Monday. The source said he would not be surprised if Trump firmed up his choice before leaving for a trip to Montana later on Thursday.

Trump’s nominee will replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his intention to retire last week after three decades on the high court. Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes sided with the court’s liberals on divisive social issues such as gay rights and abortion, was a key figure on the nine-justice court.

Conservative activists want Trump to replace him with a nominee who is more unwaveringly conservative. Trump’s appointee would maintain the slim 5-4 conservative majority on the court.

The vacancy left by Kennedy’s retirement gives Trump a second opportunity to re-shape the high court. Trump last year appointed conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to take a seat that the Republican-led U.S. Senate, which must confirm nominees to the high court, had prevented Democratic former President Barack Obama from filling in 2016 following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Reporting by Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham

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