President-elect Donald Trump's cabinet confirmation hearings are proceeding as worryingly as expected, with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate Ben Carson outrageously testifying, as Senator Elizabeth Warren pressed him, that he would be willing to allow HUD funds to enrich Donald Trump and his family if he is confirmed to the post.
On the heels of President-elect Donald Trump’s utterly meaningless plan to “resolve” conflict of interest concerns, Housing and Urban Development Secretary-designate Ben Carson’s testimony at his confirmation hearing is all the more concerning.
On Thursday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked Carson if he could assure Americans that “not a single taxpayer dollar that you give out will financially benefit the president elect or his family?”
When Carson tried to parse his response, Warren pressed the point hard:
WARREN: Housing development is an area in which President-elect Trump and his family have significant business interests. Can you assure me that not a single taxpayer dollar that you give out will financially benefit the president-elect or his family?
CARSON: I can assure you that the things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and values, and therefore I will absolutely not play favorites for anyone.
WARREN: Dr. Carson, let me stop right here. I’m actually trying to ask a more pointed question and it’s not about your good faith. That is not my concern. My concern is whether or not among the billions of dollars that you will be responsible for handing out in grants and loans, can you just assure us that not one dollar will go to benefit either the president elect or his family?
CARSON: It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American…
WARREN: I understand that.
CARSON: …in particular. It’s for all Americans, everything that we do.
WARREN: Do I take that to mean that you might manage programs that will significantly benefit the president-elect?
CARSON: You can take it to mean that I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people. That is going to be the goal.
WARREN: To the best you understand it?
CARSON: If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program that’s working for millions of people, and it turns out that someone that you’re targeting is going to gain, you know, $10 from it, am I going to say, ‘No, the rest of you Americans can’t have it?’ I think logic and common sense probably would be the best way.
WARREN: Yeah, although, we do have a problem here, and I appreciate your good faith in this, I do, Dr. Carson. The problem is that you can’t assure us that HUD money, not of $10 varieties, but multimillion dollar varieties, will not end up in the president-elect’s pockets, and the reason you can’t assure us of that is because the president-elect is hiding his family’s business interests from you, from me, from the rest of America.
Carson’s testimony goes beyond a refusal to agree, and into an explicit promise that he is willing to allow federal funds that he will oversee to benefit Trump, his family, or anyone else who may have a conflict of interest.
His very language is hostile to the idea of ethics, referring to the president-elect as “someone that you’re targeting,” rather than as an elected official with an ethical obligation not to profit from his office.
This is an outrageous bit of testimony that would be disqualifying, if Carson had any qualifications for this position to begin with. Instead, it just makes him your average Donald Trump nominee.