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Washington

Trump said to pick Herman Cain for Fed as new counterweight to Powell

Former pizza company executive and presidential candidate Hermain Cain

President Donald Trump intends to nominate Herman Cain, the former pizza company executive who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Trump plans to announce his selection very soon, said three people, who asked not be identified discussing the nomination because it hasn't been announced. Mr. Cain would fill one of two open seats on the board. The other seat is going to Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a longtime Trump supporter, for the other.

In Messrs. Cain and Moore, Mr. Trump would place two political loyalists on the board of a central bank that has frequently crossed him. The president has repeatedly attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell for raising interest rates, and Bloomberg News reported in December that Mr. 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.

Mr. 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."

Mr. Cain, who had a long corporate career, has also 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 Mr. Trump's repeated criticisms of the Fed last year.

Some GOP senators had a mixed reaction to Cain.

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., a senior member of the Senate Banking Committee, said he doesn’t know enough about Cain and would have to wait for 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.”

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., 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.”

Mr. 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 Mr. Cain for more than 13 years.

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

Axios reported earlier Thursday that Mr. Trump was expected to announce his selection of Mr. Cain as soon as a background check was completed. Bloomberg reported in January that Trump was close to choosing Mr. Cain for the job.