We're told the honchos are keenly aware Mariah Carey isn't a fan of Minaj and doesn't want her at the table ... a fact producers LOVE because they think the conflict and tension will be good for the show.
And ... we now know A.I. will once again go with a 4th judge ... we're told producers are gunning for someone from the country music world for the third seat. Seat number 4 is up in the air.
Finally, altough "A.I." wanted Diddy or Kanye West ... we're told they are definitely out of the picture.
Thiiiiiiiiis ... is getting intense.