WASHINGTON (CNN) – A top aide to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy told fellow Democrats on Friday to get ready for President Obama's Supreme Court pick to come as early as next week, according to an e-mail obtained by CNN.
"It is possible the President will designate his nominee to the Supreme Court as early as next Tuesday or some time next week," Jeremy Paris, Leahy's chief counsel for nominations, wrote in the e-mail to fellow Democratic aides.
The Judiciary panel will handle the nomination process for whomever Obama picks to replace retiring Justice David Souter, and three senior Obama administration officials confirmed to CNN that the latest thinking at the White House is the president could make the pick as early as next week.
The White House's new point person for managing the process for the eventual nominee, Stephanie Cutter, was also spotted in the West Wing on Friday afternoon meeting with other aides, a sign the administration could be edging closer to announcing the pick.
But the three senior administration officials said flatly the president has not yet settled on his pick, and they noted this weekend would be pivotal in the decision-making process. "He's mulling it over," one top aide said of the final stages of the process.
Top officials say it is unlikely the president will announce the pick at a prime-time event, as then-President Bush did when he nominated John Roberts to be Chief Justice.
The President is spending Memorial Day weekend at Camp David, a remote location conducive to contemplation. Camp David could also be a location for last-minute one-on-one meetings with potential court nominees that can be kept secret because the media has no access to the grounds.
The senior administration officials cautioned it is still possible the Supreme Court announcement could slip into early or mid-June if the President does not make up his mind over the course of the next few days.
Obama is under some pressure, however, to announce the pick before he leaves Washington on June 3 for a foreign trip that will take him to Egypt, France, and Germany because he needs to get the confirmation process started because the Senate takes the month of August off for recess. While Obama aides are hoping to get confirmation hearings started in July, there are many possible delays that could push the hearings into September, which could put confirmation before the first Monday in October in some peril.
Senate Judiciary spokeswoman Erica Chabot acknowledged to CNN "the rumors are flying fast and furious" that next week is possible for an announcement, but stressed that Paris' e-mail is not a sign that the panel knows the timing for sure. "We just don't have an indication of when this is going to happen," said Chabot.
Chabot noted the committee is just getting Senate Democrats ready with talking points and other background material for the inevitable announcement. "The committee will begin the process once that happens," she said of Obama's eventual public announcement.
Sources close to the selection process tell CNN most of the major vetting has been done and the process is pretty far along, farther than the White House may be letting on. All of the dozen or so major candidates under consideration have had at least initial vetting and most of the top-tier candidates - a half dozen or so - have been fully vetted.
The sources close to the process say Obama has been carefully reading the research material provided by the small group of staffers coordinating the search, and has asked a lot of questions and asked for more material in some cases. The sources added Obama has had at least one formal meeting, sitting down this week with federal appeals court judge Diane Wood of Chicago. He also spoke briefly in private with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but sources say the meeting was not substantive.
–CNN Supreme Court Producer William Mears and Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger contributed to this report.