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14 March 2018, 10:26 | Erica Roy
Emails show Ben Candy Carson selected $31,000 dining set Getty Images
Internal emails show Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and his wife picked out a $31,000 dining room set for his government office, according to a new report that directly contradicts prior statements a department spokesperson gave. The assistant then references "printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out", in a subsequent email.
News that Carson dropped $31,000 in federal funds to swap the old table set out of his HUD suite made national headlines and sparked immediate backlash when it was first reported in February - around the same time the housing agency had proposed stripping more than $6 billion from its affordable housing budget.
The 163-page release, obtained by the left-leaning group American Oversight, includes a series of email exchanges over the course of past year in which top HUD staffers vet different furniture options and solicit input from Carson's wife Candy, as well as the secretary. While referring to the quote as a "a very reasonable price", the staffer also acknowledged the high price tag, saying, "We also have a justification for the cost (as you know, the furniture hasn't been changed since 1988) so this should not be a problem".
"I don't think it even crossed her mind, this separate room", he said of the decorating plans. The company confirmed a few days after CNN reported the purchase that the agency officially canceled the order on March 1. "The secretary did not order a new table".
"Are you available on any of those dates and would you like to come in and have input on the redecorating?" it asks her.
The spokesman initially blamed the expensive order on "the career staffers in charge of the building".
In a Facebook post last week, the Carsons denied allegations that they were responsible for the purchase of the $31,000 dining set.
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". The set included a Newport dining table with a mahogany finish along with upholstered chairs.
HUD staffer Aida Rodriguez emailed Secretary Ben Carson's chief of staff and executive assistant regarding furniture Carson and his wife "picked out".
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