President Trump on Wednesday offered only tepid support for Herman Cain, one of his picks for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board who faces an uncertain path to confirmation in the Republican-led Senate.
Trump has yet to formally nominate the former pizza chain executive and 2012 Republican presidential candidate, but Cain already is facing head winds. Asked by a reporter about Cain’s prospects, Trump signaled it would be up to Cain whether to proceed.
“I like Herman Cain, and Herman will make that determination,” Trump said. “He’s just somebody I like a lot. As to how he’s doing in the process, that I don’t know. . . . Herman’s a great guy and I hope he does well.”
Trump has also indicated that he would like to put conservative economist Stephen Moore on the Fed’s board, giving him two allies to stake out his interests at an institution Trump has frequently criticized.
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to say whether he would back Cain or Moore.
“Well, we’re going to look at whoever he sends up, and once he does, we’ll take a look at it,” McConnell told reporters, referring to Trump.
Republicans have privately expressed concern that selecting ideological partisans for the board risks politicizing the Fed, which is designed to be an independent governing body. Also, neither man is particularly well-versed in monetary policy.
Additionally, sexual misconduct allegations all but ended Cain’s presidential campaign in the 2012 cycle. If Cain is nominated by Trump, that history would be a focal point of his confirmation hearings.
Cain has denied the accusations, but the political climate has changed in eight years. In a post-#MeToo movement era, Republicans may not be eager to bring up a Trump-backed nominee who will face scrutiny over his treatment of women.
Later Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he thought Cain should be confirmed by the Senate despite questions about his background.
“I don’t know Cain very well, but I have every reason to believe the president supports him and feels strongly, so yes, I would think he should be confirmed,” Mnuchin told CNBC.
Colby Itkowitz and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.