Trump says pizza exec Cain is in 'good shape' for Fed seat

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President Donald Trump said Herman Cain, the former pizza company executive who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, is being vetted for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that Cain is in "good shape." Cain would fill one of two open seats on the board; the president plans to name Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a long-time Trump supporter, for the other.

In Cain and Moore, Trump would place two political loyalists on the board of a central bank that has frequently crossed him. The president has repeatedly attacked Jerome Powell, his own appointee as Federal Reserve chairman, for raising interest rates, and Bloomberg News reported in December that Trump had even discussed firing him.

One way the president can directly influence monetary policy is through nominations to the Fed board, though anyone he picks must be confirmed by the Senate. Asked Thursday if he's trying to send a signal to the Fed with Cain and Moore, Trump said: "None whatsoever."

Cain in September co-founded a pro-Trump super-political action committee, America Fighting Back PAC, which features a photo of the president on its website and says: "We must protect Donald Trump and his agenda from impeachment."

Cain, who had a long corporate career, has previously worked in the Federal Reserve system. From 1992 to 1996, he served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, as well as deputy chairman and then chairman.

He advocated for the U.S. to return to the gold standard during his presidential campaign and as recently as December 2017 defended higher interest rates, a position that contrasts with Trump's repeated criticisms of the Fed last year.

Cain ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination but dropped out in late 2011 after allegations he engaged in sexual harassment when he led the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. An Atlanta woman said she had had an extramarital affair with Cain for more than 13 years.

During the presidential campaign, Cain became known for his "9-9-9" tax plan, which would have replaced much of the U.S. tax code with a flat 9 percent tax on sales transactions as well as corporate and individual income.

There were mixed reactions to Cain's selection for the board among Republican senators.

Senator Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican and a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, said he would reserve his opinion until confirmation hearings.

"A lot of times they throw a nominee out there to see how it plays," he said. "And then they vet them and they check them out."

Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican who is one of Trump's closest allies in the Senate, praised Cain.

"He's a business guy," Perdue said. "He's got a great background for it. I know him personally. I think personally he'd be a great addition."

Bloomberg News