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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Bush to Announce His Nominee for Supreme Court Tonight - New York Times

Bush to Announce His Nominee for Supreme Court Tonight - New York Times The New York Times
July 19, 2005
Bush to Announce His Nominee for Supreme Court Tonight
By ELISABETH BUMILLER

WASHINGTON, July 19 - President Bush will announce his nominee for the Supreme Court at 9 o'clock tonight, the White House said today.

The president's chief spokesman, Scott McClellan, told reporters early this afternoon that the televised announcement would be made this evening, after a morning in which the president playfully deflected questions about the selection.

"I'm comfortable with where we are in the process," Mr. Bush said at a news conference, adding that he has been interviewing candidates "from different walks of life," some of whom he knows well and others with whom he is less familiar.

Amid rumors that he has settled upon Judge Edith Brown Clement of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in New Orleans, and that an announcement is imminent, the president declined to answer directly when asked whether he thought it important to select a woman to replace the retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Groping momentarily for words, Mr. Bush said he was trying for a reply "that sounds profound to you without actually answering your question." Turning more serious, he reiterated his position that he wants a jurist "who will not legislate from the bench."

"I'll let you know when I'm ready to tell you about it," the president said at a question-and-answer session with Prime Minister John Howard of Australia.

Earlier today, the presidential spokesman Scott McClellan offered only this terse comment at a morning meeting with journalists: "The president is closer today than he was yesterday on naming a nominee."

Administration officials said on Monday that that the selection process was moving far faster than they had expected. They also said that Mr. Bush's remarks on Monday morning in an East Room news conference, in which the president suggested that he would take more time to interview candidates, did not rule out a quick announcement.

Republicans close to the White House said that a leading candidate to succeed Justice O'Connor was Judge Clement.

A Republican with close ties to the administration said that Judge Clement was interviewed as a potential nominee at the White House about a month ago, when the administration was preparing for the possible retirement of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist. Since then, Justice O'Connor has announced that she will step down while Chief Justice Rehnquist, who has thyroid cancer, has said that he will remain on the job as long as his health permits.

In that news conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India on Monday morning, Mr. Bush said that he was still reviewing the backgrounds of candidates and that "I will sit down with some and talk to them face to face, those who I have not known already."

Both Republicans and Democrats said that a nomination announcement in the next few days could push the news of Karl Rove and a federal investigation into who leaked the name of a C.I.A. officer off the front pages, a development that would be highly welcome at the White House. Mr. Rove, Mr. Bush's senior adviser, has been named by two reporters as a source of the leak, a potential crime.

"A nomination would certainly change the momentum in Washington," said Kenneth M. Duberstein, who managed the Supreme Court nominations of Clarence Thomas and David H. Souter for Mr. Bush's father.

White House officials would not say on Monday whether Mr. Bush had himself interviewed Judge Clement, who is one on a list of some half-dozen finalists. The other frequently mentioned possibilities include Judge Edith H. Jones, also of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and three other federal appellate judges: J. Michael Luttig and J. Harvie Wilkinson III of the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Virginia; and John G. Roberts Jr. of the District of Columbia Circuit.

Other possibilities are Larry D. Thompson, the former deputy attorney general who is now the general counsel of Pepsico in Purchase, N.Y., and Judge Priscilla R. Owen, also of the federal appellate court in New Orleans.

Republicans said on Monday that they still believed Mr. Bush was most interested in selecting a woman as Justice O'Connor's replacement, and that Judge Clement had an edge.

Both Republicans and Democrats said that Judge Owen, who was only recently confirmed to the appellate court after a bitter confirmation fight, would be too divisive a figure. Republicans and Democrats also said that Judge Jones, who is strongly antiabortion, might be too far to the right and could set off a volatile confrontation in the Senate. Judge Clement's views on abortion are not publicly known.

On Capitol Hill, Senate aides said they had received no notification or signal from the White House that a nomination was imminent, but they said the general expectation was that a name would surface this week. Democrats said that last week they would continue to press the president to provide them a list of finalists before he made an announcement.

But Mr. Bush, who has promised to consult with the Senate in the selection process, appeared to rule out that possibility in his remarks in the East Room. "I, of course, am the person that picks the nominee, and they get to decide whether or not the nominee gets confirmed," Mr. Bush said. "That's the way it has worked in the past. That's the way it's going to work in this administration."

Mr. Bush, who has kept information about his selection process within a small circle of top aides, became testy when a reporter said that "we understand you are now close to a decision" on a nominee.

"Well, thank you for telling me where I am in the process," Mr. Bush replied. "I appreciate that."

David Stout contributed reporting for this article.

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