Indian-descent judge Amul Thapar not on Trump’s shortlist for Supreme Court pick, say reports
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Indian-descent judge Amul Thapar not on Trump’s shortlist for Supreme Court pick, say reports

However, US President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday he was looking at four nominees, and might have it down to two or three contenders, and that he could pick any one of the 25 on a shortlist he started the search with.

world Updated: Jul 06, 2018 23:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Amul R Thapar,US Supreme Court,Donald Trump
Amul Thapar is among four candidates US President Donald Trump interviewed on Monday for a vacancy in the US Supreme Court.(AP File Photo)

Judge Amul R Thapar’s race for the US Supreme Court and history as the first Indian American and Asian American to reach the highest court in the country appears over. For now, at least.

He has figured nowhere in any of the many shorter shortlists published in media on Thursday of nominees being considered by US President Donald Trump.

The numbers varied. Some said the president was down to two names, others contended he was juggling three names. Each version was sourced to unidentified officials.

Trump told reporters he was looking at four nominees and that he could pick any one of the 25 on a shortlist he started the search with.

“I think I have it down to four people and I think of the four people, I have it down to three or two,” he said. “I think they’re all outstanding. Honestly I could pick any of the 25 and they would be terrific. Those are very terrific people. The whole list is extraordinary.”

The president could still change his mind any time before July 9, when he has said he plans to announce his pick. Until then, the speculation will continue.

There might be hope till then for Thapar, who is reported to have been among the top four the president had narrowed down his list to earlier. He has been interviewed for 45 minutes by the president along with the top contenders.

But reports, based on versions provided by unidentified officials, now say the president has three names before him, all three federal appeals court judges like Thapar: Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge.

Reports of the president leaning one way or the other are based on conversations he has had with aides and advisors. He has been asking about Kavanaugh’s links to the administration of President George W Bush, for instance, according to one report. The judge did serve in the Bush administration, which could cost him a few points, but he is also the favourite of the White House legal counsel Don McGahn, who has been entrusted by the president to lead the search.

Another report suggested Kethledge was a front-runner because the president asked someone if the judge has enough experience.

None of this rules out Thapar from the contention. He is young, at 49, and has the backing of the most powerful Republican in the US senate, Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. They come from the same state, Kentucky, and it’s evident to everyone the senator would like to see Thapar elevated to the Supreme Court. Trump needs McConnell and depends on him for his legislative agenda.

The Indian American community has been tracking the race closely since Trump unfurled his shortlist of 25 names to fill a vacancy left on the nine-member bench by Justice Anthony Kennedy announcing plans to retire. Outmatched and outgunned by other lobbies for now, it has been waiting for the final nod to unleash a campaign of its own. “Millions will have to be raised and spent then,” said an Indian American Republican who did not wish to be named.

They might have to wait for longer than they may have anticipated. If Thapar doesn’t get the phone call this time, he might get luckier the next time a place opens up. Or so is the hope, for now.

First Published: Jul 06, 2018 08:30 IST