Trump picks Neil Gorsuch as US Supreme Court nominee

The US President says Mr Gorsuch has "a superb intellect" and "an unparalleled legal education"

Donald Trump has nominated a conservative Colorado judge as his choice to take the vacant seat on America's highest court.

In a primetime announcement from the East Room at the White House, the President named Neil Gorsuch as his pick to fill the gap on the US Supreme Court.

All of the major US television networks broke into their regular programming to carry the announcement live - a return to prime time for the President who used to host The Apprentice. The event was streamed by the White House on Facebook Live.

Mr Gorsuch would take the place of fellow conservative Antonin Scalia, who died a year ago, but he faces a contentious battle for confirmation from the US Senate.

Democrats remain angry that Republicans blocked President Barack Obama's nominee for the position.

Many refused even to meet Merrick Garland, arguing that it was too late in Mr Obama's presidency for him to make an appointment.

It raises the prospect of further bad-tempered clashes and procedural manoeuvres on Capitol Hill even as President Trump struggles to have cabinet appointments confirmed.

Mr Trump said: "This has been the most transparent and most important Supreme Court selection process in the history of our country and I wanted the American people to have a voice in this nomination.

"Judge Gorsuch has a superb intellect, an unparalleled legal education, and a commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to its text.

"He will make an incredible Justice as soon as the Senate confirms him."

"Honoured and humbled"

At 49, Judge Gorsuch would be the youngest Supreme Court appointee for three decades.

The Supreme Court pick is one of the consequential decisions of any presidency because it is, in effect, a job for life. The justice and his or her decisions live on long past the President's term.

He said he was "honoured and humbled" to be selected.

Polls have shown that concern over who would succeed Mr Scalia was a major factor for many voters who opted for Trump. Like Mr Scalia, Judge Gorsuch believes in the original interpretation of the US Constitution.

The Supreme Court is currently split evenly between justices appointed by Republican and Democrat presidents.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, appointed by Ronald Reagan, is a moderate conservative who has often been the swing vote.

It means Mr Trump's choice will effectively restore the balance of power that existed before Mr Scalia's death.

The court is the ultimate voice on a range of contentious issues and the Trump presidency could thrust abortion, climate change, the death penalty and LGBT rights into the justices' hands.

This might not be the only Supreme Court appointment of Trump's term in office - three existing justices are 78 or older - and the next would probably shift the balance of power.

The selection has been criticised by activists.

Adam Hodge, spokesman for the Constitutional Responsibility Project, said: "President Trump's nomination of Neil Gorsuch is deeply disappointing.

"Gorsuch has a history of putting corporations and special interests ahead of the rest of us.

"The shocking start to Donald Trump's presidency has underscored why we need a justice who will serve as a check on the politicians in the other branches of government, including the President himself, when they break the law or violate the Constitution."