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Emails suggest HUD Secretary Ben Carson knew of $31,000 dining room set

John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- New documents made public Wednesday suggest U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was involved with the purchase of the controversial $31,000 furniture set for his office suite, despite claims by an agency spokesman that he was not aware of it.

An August email obtained by the liberal watchdog group American Oversight shows a HUD staff member making reference to "the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out." Another email shows a HUD staffer writing Carson's wife, Candy Carson, to ask if she was available to meet with a designer about "bringing in new furniture."

Carson, a retired and celebrated neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, has faced increased scrutiny for the $31,000 dining room set -- ordered at a time when the agency was contemplating deep cuts to housing programs. He has also faced criticism for involving his wife and son in government business -- and last month he called on the department's inspector general to investigate that involvement.

"Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased," a HUD spokesman said last month when news of the dining room set became public.

In response to the new documents, HUD spokesman Raphael Williams said that, "When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles."

The controversy surrounding the table is the latest case of members of President Donald Trump's Cabinet coming under fire for their stewardship of public money.

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Tom Price, a former secretary for Health and Human Services, resigned last year following bipartisan criticism of his use of chartered flights. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has faced questions for helicopter trips and for the department's decision to spend $139,000 to renovate three sets of doors in his office.

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