President Donald Trump has settled on his first Supreme Court nominee and is poised to reveal his selection early this week, two officials say, in an announcement that many inside the White House hope could change the subject from a weekend of thundering criticism over the executive order on immigration.
While Trump said last week he would make his choice known on Thursday, aides say they expect it to come sooner.
A confirmation team, comprised of senior Republican advisers with deep experience in previous administrations and Capitol Hill, is prepared for an announcement as soon as Monday, but aides cautioned that Trump will make the ultimate decision on timing.
“Our world changes constantly but there is a very good chance we are announcing early this week unless (President Trump) changes his mind about who,” a senior adviser told CNN.
A busy second week in office is ahead for Trump, who aides say is preparing to sign another wave of executive orders, ranging in topics from small business to crime and drugs to financial services.
The President is scheduled to attend the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday, which is another reason aides say he could accelerate his Supreme Court announcement.
He is also planning to travel to Milwaukee on Thursday to deliver an economic address highlighting manufacturing before ending the week at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
But it is the Supreme Court announcement, with Trump nominating a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, which will shape the second week of his presidency.
Trump finished with interviews last week, two people close to the process say, and is believed to have narrowed his pick down to three jurists: Neil Gorsuch, who sits on the federal appears court in Denver; William H. Pryor Jr., who sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and Thomas Hardiman of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.
Hardiman emerged as the leading contender, two people close to the process said, but they cautioned that Trump could still change his mind and deliver a surprise.
As he did in his first week, Trump will also use the executive order as his main way to direct policy. Trump signed 14 orders in his first week and sources tell CNN he will sign more this coming week.
Trump is expected to sign orders this week that aim to spur small business growth (Monday), step up local crime-fighting and curb the sale of drugs in the United States (Tuesday) and targeted at the financial services industry (Friday).
But the scheduling remains fluid — a fact proven by the fact Trump has yet to sign an executive order initiating an investigation into voter fraud. White House officials promised an order of voter fraud last week, previewing a move that would expand on Trump’s interest in the unproven claims he has made since November’s election alleging millions of illegal votes were cast, without citing any evidence.
That order hasn’t come yet, but an official tells CNN that signing the order is on the schedule for the week.