Emails suggest HUD Secretary Ben Carson knew of $31000 dining room set

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When originally reached by CNN for content, Carson said he was "surprised" by the price tag, and said the order had been canceled.

"The secretary did not order a new table", this person said.

But by the summer, the emails show, there was an abrupt about-face coinciding with the reassignment of a senior staff member, Helen G. Foster, who has claimed in a whistle-blower complaint that she refused to comply with Mrs. Carson's request to "find the money" to fund a more lavish renovation.

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

"Mrs. Carson and the secretary had no awareness that the table was being purchased", Williams told CNN. "While it's encouraging to see that HUD's career ethics officials tried to stand up to the extravagant requests from Secretary Carson and his wife, it's still deeply troubling each time we learn about secretary involving his family in his taxpayer-funded job".

Williams told CNN on Tuesday that when Candy Carson was "presented with options by professional staff", she "participated in the selection of specific styles".

The career administration staffer sent the quote to Carson's office, specifically Carson's chief of staff and his executive assistant, casting further doubt on the agency's assertion that the purchase was made entirely by career staff.

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". One email published by American Oversight indicates that HUD received an estimate that said fixing a chair would cost about $1,100.

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Four months later, receipts show HUD moved forward with the purchase. However, by the time the furniture was ordered four months later, the final price of the furniture increased by $31,000, mostly due to delivery and installation charges.

The emails were first reported by CNN.

In a Facebook post last week, the Carsons denied allegations that they were responsible for the purchase of the $31,000 dining set.

In a February 20, 2017, email, for example, Sheila Greenwood - who at the time was serving on Trump's HUD transition team - wrote Aida Rodriguez, an administrative officer in the secretary's office, "I think it was you who told me last week that there were some furniture board/choices for Mrs. Carson to see".

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

"I don't think it even crossed her mind, this separate room", he said of the decorating plans.

The gotcha report comes just weeks after Carson denied ordering the expensive furniture set, saying he was not the one to blame.

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