Trump's Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch took secret flight, back road drive to Washington

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - A secret meeting at a neighbor's house, a drive through a back country road, and a clandestine flight on a military jet marked Judge Neil Gorsuch's journey to the White House this week after U.S. President Donald Trump chose him as his Supreme Court nominee.

Trump, who took office on January 20, called Gorsuch on Monday to inform him that he had prevailed among a handful of finalists to succeed deceased Justice Antonin Scalia on the high court.

That decision set off a rapid and secretive process to get Gorsuch to Washington without alerting journalists and other Supreme Court watchers of the president's selection.

After Trump called the Colorado-based judge, a team from the White House counsel's office flew to Denver and then drove to Boulder, roughly 45 minutes away, to meet with Gorsuch and his family.

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Neil Gorsuch pauses as he speaks after taking the judicial oath during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 10: President Donald Trump watches as Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch hugs his wife Marie Louise moments after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the judicial oath during a swearing-in ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC on Monday, April 10, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Judge Neil Gorsuch (C) and his wife Marie Louise look on, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Swearing in of Coloradan Neil M. Gorsuch as the newest member of the, United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit, with his wife Louise Gorsuch, holding the bible, and his two daughters, Belinda Gorsuch age 4, and Emma Gorsuch age 6.

(Denver Post Photo By John Prieto)

Judge Neil Gorsuch (L) and his wife Marie Louise look on, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. Trump named Judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee.

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Neil Gorsuch stands with his wife Marie Louise as U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Donald Trump (L) and Louise Gorsuch (2R) watch as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy administers a judicial oath to Neil Gorsuch during a ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House April 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Swearing in of Coloradan Neil M. Gorsuch as the newest member of the, United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit, with his wife Louise Gorsuch, holding the bible, and his two daughters, Belinda Gorsuch age 4, and Emma Gorsuch age 6.

(Denver Post Photo By John Prieto)

U.S. President Donald Trump steps back as Neil Gorsuch (L) approaches the podium after being nominated to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

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U.S. President Donald Trump points to the audience after the swearing in of Judge Neil Gorsuch as an Associate Supreme Court Justice in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Robert Hoyt, left, General Counsel of the Department of the Treasury, is congratulated by Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson as Judge Neil Gorsuch with the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, looks on in the Cash room of the Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., Friday, January 5, 2007.

(Photo by David Scull/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Neil Gorsuch speaks after U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

U.S. President Donald Trump announces his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court as Gorsuch (R) stands with his wife Marie Louise at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 31, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 31, 2017. President Donald Trump on nominated federal appellate judge Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, tilting the balance of the court back in the conservatives' favor.

(BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

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They met at a neighbor's house to avoid detection.

Then the White House staff spirited him though a "back farm road" to a waiting military plane to transport him to Washington, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday night in the White House East Room.

Gorsuch stayed at a friend's residence before being brought to the White House for the Tuesday evening announcement.

The secrecy continued up until the last minute.

SEE ALSO: Trump's conservative Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch seen in the mold of Scalia

When Trump, a former reality television star, entered the East Room, he came alone, addressing the cameras and the waiting crowd, which included Scalia's widow, at a podium before calling on Gorsuch and his wife to come in.

Trump's decision came after he narrowed a list of 21 candidates down to six, including Thomas Hardiman, William Pryor, Amul Thapar, Diane Sykes, and Don Willett.

Then President-elect Trump interviewed Gorsuch, Hardiman and Pryor on Jan. 14 in his New York residence. He also interviewed Thapar.

RELATED: Reaction to President Trump nominating Judge Neil Gorsuchto the Supreme Court

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Reaction to President Trump nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court
Supreme Court nominee Judge Gorsuch firmly stands as a strict constructionist, fitting the mold of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Judge Neil Gorsuch is a phenomenal nominee for the #SCOTUS. https://t.co/qQIeFmXE3O https://t.co/QoiGqCZ2dH
His presence will turn back the clock on equality and acceptance. https://t.co/9GXzqV5GpW
I wholeheartedly applaud President Trump for nominating Judge Gorsuch: https://t.co/nJ2kxct3vM
Judge Gorsuch is eminently qualified to serve on the #SCOTUS. @POTUS should be commended. Look forward to a fair Senate process.
My statement on @POTUS' excellent selection of Neil Gorsuch as our next #SCOTUS Justice https://t.co/z7TNYvd0ie
Trump is about to announce his pick for a Supreme Court Judge, but it looks a lot more like what you and I went through on @nbc @clayaiken!
The #NRA applauds the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s #SCOTUS seat! #2A https://t.co/Kg1mPScg8D
Neil Gorsuch will make an outstanding #SCOTUS justice—he has a clear record that shows he'll follow the Constitution and uphold rule of law.
My statement on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court: https://t.co/rcpdTgOZ3J
@realDonaldTrump picking #SCOTUSnominee is even more tense than when he picked @LeezaGibbons over me on his last season of #CelebApprentice
NOTEWORTHY: #NeilGorsuch unanimously passed the Senate by voice-vote in 2006, w/ support from Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Schumer & Obama
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"He finalized the decision recently," after considering all 21 candidates "very deeply," said Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser and counselor to the president.

White House counsel Don McGahn informed Hardiman, Pryor and Thapar that they had not been chosen, Spicer said.

SEE ALSO: Democrats call to 'block' Trump Supreme Court nomination Neil Gorsuch

The White House was determined to keep the president's Supreme Court selection a secret and make the announcement of his choice a success after the botched rollout of his refugee executive order contributed to confusion and worldwide criticism last weekend.

The strategy to get Gorsuch confirmed will kick off right away, Spicer said, with former Senator Kelly Ayotte serving as the "sherpa" to help steer the nominee through the Senate confirmation process. (Editing by Michael Perry)

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