President Donald Trump has said privately that he knows Herman Cain will have trouble getting confirmed to the Federal Reserve Board, people familiar with the matter said Thursday.
Some of Trump’s closest advisers want the FBI to finish its background check before he makes his decision on whether to formally nominate Cain, but others said they are aware of the misgivings of GOP senators and that they wouldn’t be surprised if Cain withdraws.
The people, who were granted anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations, spoke hours after North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer said he wouldn’t back Cain if Trump nominated him to the Fed, and hopes the president will make another choice.
Cramer joined three other Senate Republicans who said they’d vote against confirmation, and Democrats remained united in their opposition. Cramer, and other lawmakers, have cited allegations of sexual harassment that derailed Cain’s 2012 presidential candidacy.
“If I had to vote today, I couldn’t vote for Herman Cain,” said Cramer, a Trump ally. “The allegations that drove him from the presidential race are just so obviously serious. I’m not talking about his position on interest rates or anything like that, but the sexual harassment stuff. Until it’s better explained I couldn’t vote for him.”
Cain’s bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination ended after he was accused of sexual harassment in the 1990s, when he led the National Restaurant Association. Cain, 73, has called the allegations unfounded.
At the White House on Thursday, Trump didn’t respond to a question about Cain at an Oval Office meeting about veterans.
On Thursday, White House economist Kevin Hassett praised Cain. “He has a lot of experience,” he told reporters. “I think he’s a smart and competent person.”
Cramer joins Republican senators Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Cory Gardner of Colorado in expressing opposition to a Cain nomination, which would leave him with just 49 potential Republican votes in the 100-member chamber.
Romney didn’t mention the harassment allegations, but said that the president should choose someone less partisan and with more knowledge of economics.
A number of Democrats have criticized Cain’s qualifications more generally, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he didn’t know of any lawmaker in his party who would vote to confirm Cain. GOP leaders, including Republican Whip John Thune, have said they don’t expect Democratic defections.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday declined to comment about whether he would personally support the nomination of either Cain or Trump’s other pick, Stephen Moore, saying neither of Trump’s choices has been formally sent to the Senate.
“I don’t think we have a nomination,” McConnell said in an interview when asked about Cain. “I do think there are two obviously critical components of making a nomination. One is a background check and the other is the likelihood of confirmability. And as you know, some of my members have expressed concerns about that nomination.”
Trump has announced Cain and former campaign adviser Moore as his choices to fill two open Fed seats, but hasn’t taken the formal step of issuing a nomination.
Cain, who served as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, as well as deputy chairman and later chairman, said in a video posted on Facebook on April 5 that he faced a “cumbersome” vetting process for the Fed seat, suggesting he may be considering withdrawing. Trump this week said it would be up to Cain whether he wanted to follow through with a nomination.
— With assistance by Sahil Kapur, and Steven T. Dennis