As some Republican senators started to make clear they did not want the president to nominate Herman Cain to be governor of the Federal Reserve Board, the president offered a qualified backing of the former Godfather's Pizza CEO and 2012 Republican presidential hopeful.
Asked about this opposition to Cain, the president told reporters before he boarded the Marine One helicopter Wednesday morning: "Well, I like Herman Cain . . . He's a wonderful man and he's been a supporter of mine for a long time.
"He also ran a very good campaign [for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012]," Trump added.
Clearly referring to the opposition to Cain for the Fed Board (which Trump has so far tweeted about but not made official), the president simply said "[n]ow that's up to Herman" — a hint he might not make the nomination official after all.
As critics such as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Cain is unqualified for the appointment, the president noted "[h]e used to be on one of the Fed Boards. Now, he's just somebody I like a lot."
Regarding the FBI background check, Trump said "[a]s to how he's doing in the process, you go through a process. Herman's a great guy, and I hope he does well."
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 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.
Material from AP was used in this report.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for questsin. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.