US President-elect Trump selects former rival Ben Carson for Cabinet position
NEW YORK (AP):
President-elect Donald Trump, moving closer to filling his Cabinet, chose former campaign rival Ben Carson on Monday to be secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump's decision, announced by his transition office, comes as the real estate mogul continues a series of conferences with aides and others – including unlikely figures such as former Vice-President Al Gore – aimed at forming his administration and its policies. He announced several Cabinet selections last week.
In a statement, Trump said he was "thrilled to nominate" Carson, describing the retired neurosurgeon as having "a brilliant mind" and being "passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."
Carson had 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 centred on speculation that he might be selected to head the sprawling Department of Health and Human Services.
"Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country," Trump said, "and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans."
Carson would oversee a budget of nearly $50 billion that provides rental assistance for more than five million households. Demand for that assistance is high due to housing costs rising faster than incomes. HUD also promotes home ownership with the Federal Housing Administration underwriting about one in six mortgages issued in the US The agency is also charged with enforcing federal fair housing laws.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Carson has no credentials for the job and was a "disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice." She said the country deserves someone with "relevant experience to protect the rights of homeowners and renters."
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.