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During his confirmation hearing on Thursday, Dr. Ben Carson could not promise President-elect Donald Trump would not benefit from Housing and Urban Development grants and loans. (Screenshot)

Pressed By Warren, Carson Can't Promise Trump Won't Benefit From HUD Contracts

"The problem is that you can't assure us that HUD money will not end up in the president-elect's pockets," says Sen. Elizabeth Warren

Deirdre Fulton

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Donald Trump's pick to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), refused to say on Thursday that the Trump family would not benefit in any way from HUD incentives if he is confirmed as secretary.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) raised what she thought was a "simple yes or no question" during Carson's confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday.

After noting that HUD is responsible for issuing billions of dollars in grants and loans to help develop housing nationwide—and that the president-elect and his family have "significant business interests" in the real estate realm—Warren asked: "Can you assure me that not a single taxpayer dollar you give out will financial benefit the president-elect or his family?"

"I can assure you that the things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and values," Carson responded. "And therefore I will absolutely not play favorites for anyone."

That wasn't good enough for Warren, who continued: "It's not about your good faith. My concern is whether or not, among the billions of dollars you will be responsible for handing out in grants and loans, can you just assure us that not $1 will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family?"

Carson still couldn't give a straight answer, saying, "It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American particularly. It's for all Americans, everything that we do."

Indeed, he continued, "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 $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 pounced on that, taking the opportunity to continue her ongoing critique of Trump's plan to address his myriad conflicts of interest:

The problem is that you can't assure us that HUD money—not of $10 varieties but of 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. And this just highlights the absurdity and the danger of the president-elect's refusal to put his assets in a true blind trust.”

He knows, he the president-elect knows, what will benefit him and his family financially. But the public doesn't. Which means he can divert taxpayer money into his own pockets without anyone knowing about it.

Watch the exchange below:

Afterward, Warren continued her argument online:

The Huffington Post reported:

Later in the hearing, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) criticized Warren's line of questioning, saying it would start a "fake news cycle."

"I doubt seriously that scenario will ever come up," Tillis said. 

Trump owns a stake in a 46-building affordable housing development in Brooklyn overseen by HUD.

Meanwhile, Carson also drew fire from outside groups during Thursday's hearing for his remarks about LGBT protections in the public housing sector. When asked by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) about whether he would enforce such protections, Carson responded: "Of course, I would enforce all the laws of the land...What I have said before is I don't think anyone should get 'extra rights'."

The Human Rights Campaign said the statement should be "disqualifying," while the ACLU said it "strongly disagreed" with his stance.

Slate staff writer Henry Grabar also noted in his confirmation commentary that Carson "showed no signs of taking HUD's purpose seriously, and had nothing substantive to say about block grants, or the enforcement of the Fair Housing Act, or homelessness. He did not say the words Section 8, or mention the funding crisis of public housing in the nation's largest city (though he wasn't asked about that, either). At every opportunity he reverted to talking about education, health care, dependency, red tape, or fiscal responsibility. He definitely enjoyed talking about entrepreneurial opportunities in America."

"Housing and urban development?" Grabar wrote. "Not so much."

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