The Trump administration is preparing for the possible exit of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to Politico, after Ginsburg missed oral arguments this week.
The outreach began after Ginsburg, 85, on Monday missed oral arguments at the court for the first time in her 25 years on the bench. The justice, who was nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton in 1993, announced in late December that she underwent a surgical procedure to remove two cancerous growths from her lungs.
The White House "is taking the temperature on possible short-list candidates, reaching out to key stakeholders, and just making sure that people are informed on the process," said a source familiar with those conversations, who spoke on background given the delicate nature of the subject. "They're doing it very quietly, of course, because the idea is not to be opportunistic, but just to be prepared so we aren't caught flat-footed."
President Trump has indicated previously he believes he will likely appoint 3 or 4 justices to the nation’s highest court during his tenure.
His first two appointments were highly controversial — Justice Neil Gorsuch for the fact that Republicans blocked former President Obama’s nominee, and Brett Kavanaugh for his positions on several issues, as well as sexual assault allegations.
Trump’s next nominee will likely face a fierce confirmation process.
"It would be a brutal confirmation,” said John Malcolm, director of the Heritage Foundation's Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies. “The first two were not easy at all, but this would be much harder in this respect: When Neil Gorsuch was the nominee, you were replacing a conservative with a conservative. With Kavanaugh, you were replacing the perennial swing voter, who more times than not sided with the so-called conservative wing, so that slightly solidified the conservative wing.”
“But if you are replacing Justice Ginsburg with a Trump appointee, that would be akin to replacing Thurgood Marshall with Clarence Thomas,” Malcolm added. “It would mark a large shift in the direction of the court."
Neither Ginsburg nor the Court has shed light on her present physical condition, causing wide speculation after she failed to appear on the bench this week.
Though Ginsburg and the Court itself have been tight-lipped about her health, her absence from the bench this week has become a cause of concern because of her remarkable past attendance streak, which persisted through two previous cancer treatments and a number of other health scares. At the outset of oral arguments on Monday, Chief Justice John Roberts said she was “unable to be present” but would participate in the cases nonetheless, reading briefs, filings, and a transcript of the sessions.
Ginsburg told an audience in mid-December that she “will do this job as long as I can do it full steam.” As a candidate in July 2016,
Trump tweeted that her “mind is shot — resign!” But after her surgery last month he wished her a “full and speedy recovery."