Emails reveal Ben Carson knew about $31000 dining set

Kevork Djansezian  Getty Images North America

Kevork Djansezian Getty Images North America

At least one of Mr. Carson's predecessors - Shaun Donovan, who served under President Barack Obama - abandoned the idea of replacing the furniture when told it would exceed the statutory price limit, according to two former agency officials.

Another email released to the group showed Helen Foster, then Hud's chief administrative officer, stating more than a year ago that she had been "asked about "finding" additional money for furnishing the Secretary's office".

"Hi Mrs. Carson!" the scheduler wrote.

"I briefly looked at catalogs for dining furniture and was shocked by the cost of the furniture", Carson said.

HUD spokesman Raffi Williams told CNN in February that the secretary and his wife "had no awareness" that the new dining table was being purchased. 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.

The emails do not include a response from Candy Carson, but in his statement to CNN earlier this month, Secretary Carson also acknowledged there was a deadline to make a decision on the furniture purchase.

Carson's wife, Candy Carson, played a central role in coordinating the redecoration of his office suite, down to scheduling an appointment with an interior decorator, reviewing photo boards of furniture choices and pressuring staff members to find more money for furnishings, according to the emails.

"Below is the price quote for all of the dining room furniture".

One email sent on August 29, 2017, by Aida Rodriguez, an administrative officer in the secretary's office, summarizes that $24,666 quote as "a very reasonable price", adding "the funds are available".

A HUD staffer noted in one email that the cost of the furniture shouldn't be an issue because "the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988". The final bill came to almost $7,000 more than the August quote, due to delivery and installation charges, as well as a small price increase for the upholstered chairs.

A HUD spokesman, who previously spoke to CNN under the condition of anonymity, had said the Carsons did not know which items were being purchased for the office and that Candy Carson had no interest in redecorating.

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.

The emails contain vivid descriptions of the "wobbling" chairs and table.

Revelations of the inconsistencies come just weeks after Secretary Carson used a biblical reference - Psalms 91 - in his defense: "Under his wings you will find refuge".

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