President Donald Trump said Wednesday that former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain is a "wonderful man," but it will be up to him to decide whether to go forward with a nomination to the Federal Reserve's seven-member board.
Asked by reporters if the nomination was safe, Trump said he did not know how Cain is faring in the vetting process. Cain "will make that determination" whether to continue. He will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Trump's comments come one day after Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell dodged a question on whether he would support Cain and conservative commentator Stephen Moore, who Trump is also considering for a Fed board seat.
McConnell said, "Well, we're going to look at whoever he sends up, and once he does, we'll take a look at it."
Republicans and Democrats have raised questions about whether Trump's choices of both Cain and Moore, two political allies, would elevate concerns about the political independence of the Fed. Trump has already broken the norms set by recent presidents who have avoided commenting on the Fed's performance.
Since last fall, Trump has repeatedly criticized his handpicked chairman, Jerome Powell, and other Fed officials for raising interest rates four times last year. Those rate hikes hurt the stock market and were unnecessary because there was no inflation threat, Trump says.
The White House has not formally nominated either Cain or Moore, but Trump has said he intends to nominate both men once the White House background checks are completed.
Asked about Cain's nomination in light of concerns raised by some Senate Republicans, Trump said, "I like Herman Cain. And Herman will make that determination. Herman is a wonderful man. He's been a good supporter of mine for a long time."
The Fed's seven-member board has two empty seats. Trump's previous picks were viewed as mainstream economists or bankers, but his selections of Cain and Powell have been seen as an effort by Trump to put a more partisan stamp on Fed policies.