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The Latest: Schumer suggests Trump nominate Merrick Garland

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and the Supreme Court nomination (all times local):
1:10 p.m.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has told President Donald Trump it would be cataclysmic to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with someone who opposes the right to abortion or the 2010 health care law.
That’s according to a person familiar with a phone call he says Trump placed Tuesday to discuss the opening.
The person says the New York Democrat told Trump such a nominee would be tremendously divisive and hurt Trump’s legacy. The person also says it didn’t seem Trump was seriously soliciting Schumer’s advice since the president was already winnowing potential nominees.
The person says Schumer told Trump he could unify the country by nominating Merrick Garland. Republicans blocked Garland’s 2016 nomination by then President Barack Obama.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the conversation publicly.
12:15 p.m.
Liberal groups prepping for battle over the Supreme Court vacancy say senators who back abortion rights can’t settle for statements that the nominee will respect legal precedent.
They say whomever President Donald Trump selects must explicitly say they support the rights to abortion, to use contraceptives and to marry someone of the same gender.
The remarks by liberal leaders at Thursday’s news conference are aimed at raising pressure on senators, including Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, who’ve backed abortion rights.
Collins has said she’d oppose a pick who’s hostile toward the Roe v. Wade decision that affirmed the right to abortion.
Executive Director Brian Fallon of Demand Justice says vague “apple sauce answers” on whether the nominee backs the Obama-era health care law are also unacceptable.
11:10 a.m.
A key GOP senator is warning President Donald Trump not to repeat “mistakes” of past Republican presidents by picking a Supreme Court nominee who turns out to be insufficiently conservative.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas says fellow Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah would be a “sure thing.”
In a Fox News op-ed, Cruz writes that “after countless mistakes by Republicans, we finally have a chance to get this right.”
He cited former justices William Brennan, John Paul Stevens and Harry Blackmun, who authored the Roe v. Wade decision that established a woman’s right to abortion. All three were nominated by Republican presidents.
The Texas senator had already pushed Lee as his top choice for the vacancy. But his comments come as some conservative and libertarian activists are making the case for Lee over other candidates on the administration’s short list.
8:25 a.m.
President Donald Trump is closing in on his next Supreme Court nominee, with three federal judges leading the competition to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Trump’s top contenders for the vacancy at this time are federal appeals judges Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh and Raymond Kethledge. That’s according to a person familiar with Trump’s thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly.
Working closely with a White House team and consulting with lawmakers and outside advisers, Trump has spent the week deliberating on the choice. He conducted interviews on Monday and Tuesday and has spoken to seven possible candidates. He has not yet publicly indicated that he has narrowed the list and could still consider others in the mix.
Trump plans to announce his selection Monday night, kicking off a contentious nomination process as Republicans seek to shift the court to the right and Democrats strive to block the effort.
President Donald Trump isn’t the only administration official meeting with potential nominees for the Supreme Court. The Associated Press has learned that Vice President Mike Pence has met with some of the candidates in recent days.
A person familiar with the search process confirms Pence’s participation. The person did not specify which candidates Pence met with and spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the process.
Trump himself has spoken with seven potential candidates and is set to announce his decision on Monday. He has said he’ll choose from a list of 25 candidates vetted by conservative groups.
Trump’s choice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote among the nine justices, has the potential to remake the high court for a generation.

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