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Trump Taps Carson for Housing Secretary12/05 06:23

   President-elect Donald Trump has chosen former campaign 2016 rival Ben 
Carson to become secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- President-elect Donald Trump has chosen former campaign 
2016 rival Ben Carson to become secretary of the Department of Housing and 
Urban Development.

   Trump's decision, announced early Monday by his transition office, comes as 
the real estate mogul continues a series of interviews, meetings with aides and 
other deliberations aimed at forming his administration.

   In a statement, Trump says he's "thrilled to nominate" Carson, saying he 
"has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and 
families within those communities."

   Carson has been coy about joining the new administration, saying shortly 
after Trump's election victory that he wasn't certain he'd fit into a 
Cabinet-style role. The discussion at that time centered on speculation that 
Carson might be selected to head the sprawling Department of Health and Human 
Services.

   Trump's statement Monday says, "Ben shares my optimism about the future of 
our country and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all 
Americans."

   Carson was among the 16 Republican candidates who challenged Trump for the 
Republican nomination. He was a favorite of religious conservatives and a 
strong fundraiser, but his team burned through money quickly and he failed to 
win any of the early primary contests.

   Trump treated Carson harshly during the primary, saying he had a 
"pathological temper." Still, Carson quickly endorsed Trump after he dropped 
out of the contest.

   As a Trump supporter, Carson was both loyal and critical. He conceded that 
Trump had "major defects" and said at one point that he would have preferred a 
scenario other than Trump winning the Republican primary.

   Last week, Trump announced that he planned to nominate former Goldman Sachs 
executive Steven Mnuchin as his Treasury secretary and billionaire investor 
Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. He chose Betsy DeVos to be 
secretary of education and Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Republican Leader 
Mitch McConnell, to be transportation secretary. Trump also has turned to 
retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be secretary of defense.

   A retired neurosurgeon, Carson has often recounted his childhood as the son 
of a single mother in inner-city Detroit in his books and motivational 
speeches. In his 1996 autobiography "Gifted Hands," Carson wrote of the 
humiliation he felt using food stamps from his mom to pay for bread and milk, 
and said how he began to excel at school only after receiving a free pair of 
glasses that allowed him to see the lessons written on chalk boards.

   Carson has not said whether his family ever lived in federally-funded 
housing or received Section 8 subsidies to help pay rent. But as a political 
figure he has criticized such public assistance programs for creating 
"dependency" on the government among low-income minorities.

   "I'm interested in getting rid of dependency, and I want us to find a way to 
allow people to excel in our society, and as more and more people hear that 
message, they will recognize who is truly on their side and who is trying to 
keep them suppressed and cultivate their votes," Carson said in a speech at the 
Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015.

   With the help of financial aid and scholarships, Carson attended Yale 
University and the University of Michigan Medical School before being the first 
African-American named as the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins 
Children's Center in Baltimore. There he garnered national acclaim for 
directing the first surgery to separate twins connected at the back of the head.

   Carson's rise to political prominence began with a 2013 speech at the 
National Prayer Breakfast, where he gave a withering critique of the modern 
welfare state and the nation's overall direction while President Barack Obama 
was seated just feet away. During the 2016 Republican presidential primary, 
Carson's inspirational life story, Christian faith and anti-establishment 
message briefly catapulted him last year ahead of Trump and other rivals in 
opinion polls.

   But his success on the campaign trail quickly crumbled amid questions about 
whether elements of his rags-to-riches autobiography were exaggerated or 
fabricated --- including a purported childhood fit of rage in which he tried to 
stab his best friend in the belly only to be foiled by a belt buckle. Carson's 
business dealings also faced scrutiny, including his ties to a wealthy 
Pittsburgh dentist whom he helped avoid prison time for felony health care 
fraud.

   The Associated Press first reported last year that Carson invested millions 
of dollars in real estate deals with Alfonso A. Costa, whose dentistry license 
was revoked following a felony conviction. According to required financial 
disclosure forms he filed in 2015, Carson his wife made between $200,000 and $2 
million a year from those real estate investments. Costa also served on the 
board of Carson's charity, the Carson Scholars Fund, which provides college 
scholarships to children in need.


(KA)

 
 
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