Donald Trump is set to make one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency on Monday when he names a new justice to sit on the US supreme court.
The president’s announcement, which with his usual taste for suspense is to be televised live at 9pm from the east room of the White House, could set the direction of the court for decades and light the fuse of an acrimonious political battle.
The nominee’s record will come under particular scrutiny for clues as to how he or she might vote in any future review of Roe v Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed women’s right to abortion.
Trump’s pick comes less than two weeks after Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the “swing vote” in the court’s rulings, announced his retirement, and 18 months after the president won plaudits from conservatives for appointing Neil Gorsuch to the court. This followed a fiercely criticized but ultimately successful strategy by Senate Republicans to block Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in 2016.
Trump has moved quickly to prevent Democrats attempting a similar maneuver before November’s midterm elections. Last week the president conducted interviews on Monday and Tuesday, whittling down a list of 25 figures vetted by conservative groups. On Thursday, traveling on Air Force One, he told reporters: “I think I have it down to four people. And I think of the four people I have it down to three or two.”