Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson mostly dodged a question Thursday from Sen. Elizabeth Warren during his confirmation hearing for secretary of Housing and Urban Development, making an unfortunate gaffe along the way.
Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat, asked Carson for a simple “yes or no” whether he’d be able to ensure HUD grants and loans did not financially benefit Trump’s businesses.
“If you are confirmed to lead HUD, you will be responsible for issuing billions of dollars is grants and loans to help develop housing and add a lot of housing related services,” she said. “Now, housing development is an area where 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 said he would “absolutely not play favours for anyone” because he is “driven by a sense of morals and values.”
Warren pressed on.
“Can you give your assurance that not one dollar will go to benefit either the president-elect or his family?” she asked.
“It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any American,” Carson said, quickly realising the gaffe and fixing the answer in his subsequent statement. “It’s for all Americans, everything that we do.”
“I will do things in a way that benefits the American people,” he further clarified. “That is going to be the goal.”
But Carson still would not provide that yes or no response.
“If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program that is working for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you’re targeting is getting $10 from it, am I going to say ‘no, you can’t have it?'” he said. “I think logic and common sense would be the best way.”
Warren said that the issue was not assurances of the “$10 varieties, but of billions of dollar varieties.”
“The reason you can’t assure us that is because the President-elect is hiding his business interests from you, from me, from the rest of America,” she said. “And this just highlights the absurdity of the president-elect’s refusal to put his assets in a true blind trust.”
Warren said Trump is able to “divert taxpayer money to his own pockets without anyone knowing,” adding that his Wednesday announcement that he would transfer his assets to his two eldest sons was meaningless.
A Trump lawyer laid out the plan for Trump to separate himself from his business, which included relinquishing leadership and management of the Trump Organisation to his eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, in addition to another longtime organisation employee.
Ethics experts were voiceful in their disapproval of that plan, however, which was unveiled during Trump’s Wednesday Trump Tower press conference.
“Tragically, the Trump plan to deal with his business conflicts announced today falls short in every respect,” Norman Eisen, former Special Counsel for Ethics and Government Reform in President Barack Obama’s administration, according to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza.
Watch the exchange below:
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