Democrats accuse Ben Carson of misleading public and hiring cronies

The secretary for housing and urban development faced sharp criticism at a hearing of the Senate banking committee

Ben Carson was accused by Democrat on Thursday of misleading the public and hiring unqualified cronies, after he changed his explanation for ordering pricey furniture and two officials resigned over ethics problems.

Carson, Donald Trump’s secretary for housing and urban planning( Hud ), faced sharp criticism at a hearing of the Senate banking committee in Washington.

Sherrod Brown of Ohio, the committee’s senior Democrat, told Carson was filling stances at Hud” based on patronage rather than competence”, after the Guardian disclosed that Carson’s chief datum policeman hired as an adviser a friend who has been repeatedly accused of fraud.

Brown also lambasted Carson for ordering a $31,000 dining situated for his Washington office while supervising deep cuts to public spending on services aimed at helping Americans in poverty.

” Under your leadership, Secretary Carson, Hud has decided a wobbly chair in a private DC dining room involves the urgent attention of no fewer than 16 staffers and thousands of taxpayer dollars ,” Brown said in his opening remarks.

Robert Menendez of New Jersey accused Carson of constructing “unbelievable” false statements, after the secretary this week blamed his wife for ordering the dining defined despite internal emails stating that he was involved in selecting it.

The Hud chief datum officer, Johnson Joy, resigned this week after the Guardian reported that he and the adviser, Naved Jafry, operated an opaque charity. Jafry had already resigned following questions about his past.

Brown asked Carson:” Do you think it would be better to advertise and compete for these chores rather than hiring cronies through a subcontractor ?”

Carson denied doing so and giggled.

Asked why Joy had left Hud, Carson told:” I lost confidence in his ability to lead .”

Asked why he only learned of these issues from reports in the Guardian, Carson told:” As soon as I found out about the problems, we dealt with them .”

Reminding Carson that he had cautioned against making public housing so pleasant that people might want to stay in it, Menendez told him:” Apparently your aversion to consolations and extravagance don’t flowing to your office .”

Last month it emerged that the $31,000 dining set had been ordered after another senior Hud official, who refused to exceed a $5,000 legal spending cap on redecoration, was reassigned to a more junior position.

Carson’s spokesman, Raffi Williams, who first falsely said the dining defined did not exist, then issued a statement claiming Carson and his wife, Candy, had no involvement in the ordering of the furniture.

But in an August 2017 email subsequently released under freedom of information laws, a Hud staffer said Carson and his wife had” picked out” the furniture. Carson continued to make contradictory comments on the subject at Thursday’s hearing.

Earlier this week, in evidence to a committee of the House of Representative, he both blamed his wife for the purchase and then gave a new explain: that the existing furniture had been dangerous and injured someone.

” People had been stuck by nails, a chair had collapsed with someone sitting in it ,” he told.

No references to such incidents appeared in the dozens of pages of released emails pertaining to the furniture purchase. One official mentioned that chairs were loose and said she did not want any to break.

Asked if Carson’s testimony to Congress had been accurate, Jereon Brown, a Hud spokesman, said:” We’ll decline remark .”

Asked again if he was really refusing to say whether Carson had told the truth, he told:” We’re declining remark to you on the testimony .”

Joy was also accused of firing his executive assistant after she alleged to Hud’s internal watchdog that she had detected corruption in the office’s contracting of staff from a private company.

Brown reminded Carson on Thursday that he was one of five Democrats who voted to corroborate the former brain surgeon as Hud secretary last year.

” I’m not sure I stimulated the right decision ,” he said.

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