Donald Trump on Friday named U.S. Senator Mike Lee as a potential Supreme Court nominee, turning to an ally of former rival Ted Cruz in an apparent gesture to conservative Republicans who have been wary of the Republican presidential candidate.
Lee was included on a new list of 21 potential Supreme Court justices that Trump would consider for the high court if he is elected over Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 election.
“This list is definitive and I will choose only from it in picking future justices of the United States Supreme Court,” Trump said in a statement.
The announcement came out on a day in which neither candidate had a public event and were preparing for Monday’s first presidential debate.
The list Trump announced included 10 new names and 11 conservative jurists from a list the New York businessman had announced in May. Lee’s brother, Thomas Lee, an associate justice of the Utah Supreme Court, was on the initial list and remains on Trump’s expanded list.
Trump’s listing of Mike Lee amounted to a gesture to U.S. Senator Cruz of Texas, a conservative who fought Trump fiercely as a rival for the Republican presidential nomination and who has refused to endorse Trump.
Trump’s bombastic style and proposals breaking with some conservative orthodoxies such as support for free trade agreements have sparked unease among traditional conservative Republicans.
Mike Lee, in a statement, said he appreciated being considered.
“Right now I’m focused on my job in the Senate, where I’m in a good position to defend the Constitution by fighting against government overreach. Both lists that I’ve seen from the Trump campaign are fantastic.
“While my brother and I might disagree as to which list is better, they’re both great,” he quipped.
The death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia on Feb. 13 left the court with a four-to-four tie between right-leaning and left-leaning justices.
Democratic President Barack Obama has nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, but the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate has refused to consider confirming him.
Trump said his list was based on who would follow constitutional principles on the high court. The possibility of Republicans ceding control of the court to the Democrats has been one of his main rallying cries at campaign events.
Others on Trump’s list include Keith Blackwell, a justice on the Supreme Court of Georgia; Charles Canady, a Florida Supreme Court justice; Neil Gorsuch, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, and Edward Mansfield, an Iowa Supreme Court justice.
Other names included Federico Moreno, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida; Margaret Ryan, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces; Amul Thapar, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky; Timothy Tymkovich, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit; and Robert Young, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)