WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative federal appeals court judge, to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg's position on the Supreme Court on Saturday, barring a last-minute change of heart, pushing fresh fights over abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act to the center of an already heated presidential campaign.
A Trump campaign official who had been pushing a rival candidate, Judge Barbara Lagoa of Florida, said Friday that Trump was "99.9%" certain to choose Barrett, who has been on Trump's short list since he nominated Brett M. Kavanaugh to the court in 2018 to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
"The president had sort of made a commitment emotionally and in his mind to Amy Barrett," the official said.
Later in the day, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, which will handle the nomination, posted a statement to Twitter treating the nomination as a done deal.
"The Senate will begin a thorough review of Judge Barrett's nomination, a process that shouldn't be rushed," Cornyn wrote. "Despite previous attacks based on her religious faith, I hope Democrats choose not to engage in another character assassination, as they did against Justice Kavanaugh."
When Barrett was nominated to the appeals court, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and some other Democrats questioned some of her writings, which they believed suggested she saw a justification for putting Catholic teachings ahead of secular law in some cases.
Trump had been intrigued by Lagoa, a Latina from Florida. Some advisers believed that choosing a Cuban American for the Supreme Court might help Trump carry Florida, a must-win state for him in the election.
Ultimately, however, he decided he was more certain that Barrett "is a conservative now and a conservative 20 years from now," the official said.
Trump told reporters Friday night after returning from a trip to Florida that he did not meet with Lagoa while he was there.
He said that he had made up his mind but would not confirm that Barrett was the choice.