White House furious at embarrassing stories about HUD, Secretary Ben Carson

Senior White House aides are furious about a series of negative stories about frivolous spending at the Department of...

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 8:45 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 8:45 AM

Senior White House aides are furious about a series of negative stories about frivolous spending at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and have taken a more hands-on role in trying to stem the tide of negative news, sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN.

The decision to assert more control comes a day after reports that the former chief administrative officer at HUD filed a complaint saying she demoted after refusing to spend more than was legally allowed to redecorate Secretary Ben Carson's new office.

The former staffer, Helen Foster, said she was told to "find money" beyond the legal $5,000 limit for redecorating. In one instance, she says a supervisor said that "$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair."

HUD also spent $31,000 last year to replace a dining room set in Carson's office, according to federal records and a whistleblower. A department official said that the dining set in the secretary's dining room at HUD headquarters was replaced because it was in a state of disrepair.

The sources told CNN that the stories infuriated top White House aides, who have had to deal with a sting of stories about questionable behavior and spending by Cabinet secretaries.

One source with knowledge of the situation said that those senior White House aides are angry with top officials at the housing department, but not so much at Carson, who ran against Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

A second source said that the White House was so upset with the way the HUD communications shop handled the issue that a conversation was scheduled to discuss the White House taking on a greater role in framing the response to reporters' inquiries about Carson. The idea is to stop the bleeding after incredibly unfavorable headlines about the Carsons and HUD spending.

HUD did not immediately comment for this story.

To date, the issue has stayed out of the Oval Office. Trump has yet to comment on the matter and, according to one source, the President and chief of staff John Kelly haven't been briefed about the controversy.

The Carson controversy stems from alleged requests for agency spending by the secretary's wife, Candy Carson. Foster told CNN in an exclusive interview that HUD's Acting Secretary Craig Clemmensen pulled her aside more than a month before Carson's March confirmation and said that Carson's wife wanted to "help the Secretary redecorate his office suite."

Foster said each time she was pressed to assist Carson's wife with finding the money, it was always "in the context of Mrs. Carson wants to do this. We have to find the money."

House oversight committee Chairman Trey Gowdy has also asked HUD for records relating to office furnishings since the beginning of 2017.

The Trump administration, throughout the President's first year in office, has been plagued by controversies about spending by Cabinet officials.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned in September after using a military aircraft for trips to Europe and Africa.

A recently released report from the Veterans Affairs inspector general found "serious derelictions" by Secretary David Shulkin and members of his staff during a July 2017 trip to England and Denmark, including that Shulkin's chief of staff altered an email and made false statements that led the department to pay more than $4,000 for Shulkin's wife, Merle Bari, to travel to Europe with her husband. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke faces his own inspector general investigation over travel practices, including taking charter flights to his home state of Montana.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 250869

Reported Deaths: 5481
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17010171
Hinds16091318
Harrison13250193
Rankin10629208
Jackson10216182
Lee8759141
Madison8186161
Jones6222109
Forrest5917118
Lauderdale5808180
Lowndes5309111
Lafayette491192
Lamar480465
Washington4770123
Bolivar3955106
Oktibbeha390380
Panola365076
Pontotoc361152
Monroe3521104
Warren344597
Union341458
Marshall339165
Neshoba3357152
Pearl River323295
Leflore2992105
Lincoln295685
Sunflower280469
Tate269560
Alcorn262653
Itawamba261159
Hancock260458
Pike259977
Scott244745
Prentiss244052
Yazoo242654
Tippah239749
Copiah239149
Simpson233967
Leake229564
Coahoma228554
Grenada217070
Covington210471
Marion208371
Adams203270
Winston199464
Wayne198730
George197938
Attala193158
Newton189142
Chickasaw182944
Tishomingo182159
Holmes168167
Jasper167735
Clay158233
Stone141520
Tallahatchie139234
Clarke137460
Calhoun135121
Smith119423
Yalobusha116134
Walthall111736
Noxubee110222
Greene109129
Montgomery109134
Carroll104121
Lawrence102117
Perry100531
Amite96825
Webster91924
Tunica86021
Claiborne85525
Jefferson Davis84025
Humphreys82624
Benton81023
Kemper76620
Quitman6838
Franklin65815
Choctaw60013
Wilkinson58325
Jefferson53419
Sharkey42417
Issaquena1596
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 420681

Reported Deaths: 6119
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson61755921
Mobile30058548
Madison26852186
Tuscaloosa20652266
Montgomery18876305
Shelby18421114
Baldwin16176182
Lee12393101
Morgan12175113
Etowah11687168
Calhoun11078200
Marshall10158107
Houston8556148
Cullman7999105
Limestone796274
Elmore7783101
DeKalb767197
Lauderdale752883
St. Clair7502120
Talladega6145108
Walker5880174
Jackson578841
Colbert529873
Blount529283
Autauga515455
Coffee438156
Dale394381
Franklin365248
Chilton335365
Covington326968
Russell326810
Escambia316142
Dallas302896
Chambers281869
Clarke279633
Tallapoosa2607107
Pike247629
Marion244650
Lawrence242547
Winston225535
Bibb214447
Geneva199535
Marengo197829
Pickens196231
Hale175442
Barbour172336
Butler168458
Fayette167126
Cherokee160030
Henry152721
Monroe145017
Randolph138835
Washington137026
Clay126145
Crenshaw118644
Lamar117519
Cleburne117223
Macon114335
Lowndes109535
Wilcox102621
Bullock98728
Perry96919
Conecuh94220
Sumter88826
Greene75723
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 33°
Columbus
Clear
35° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 31°
Oxford
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 28°
Starkville
Clear
34° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 34°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather