Move over, Zinke and Pruitt: Now Ben Carson’s got a scandal of his own brewing

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LeStudio1 - 2018 / Flickr THE REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP...
LeStudio1 - 2018 / Flickr

With Trump administration cronies like EPA chief Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke hogging most of the corruption scandals these days, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson has generally stayed out of the limelight. This may change.

A senior career official in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has alleged that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by funding an expensive redecoration of Ben Carson’s office.

Helen Foster said she was told “$5,000 will not even buy a decent chair” after informing her bosses this was the legal price limit for improvements to the HUD secretary’s suite at the department’s Washington headquarters.

It certainly seems that Trump appointee scandals have a particular flavor to them. Each appointee arrived with the instructions to trim their department to the bone, based on the notion that federal offices are wasteful money pits full of longtime government workers who have no regard for the put-upon taxpayers. So the appointees respond by curtailing federal travel in their department (while booking private jets for themselves) or by trimming entire working groups (while refurbishing their offices with, say, a soundproof booth for talkin’ about secrets).

And when a member of Trump’s team discovers that actually, federal workers have to make do with skimpy budgets and work within the confines of a whole set of rules engineered to protect taxpayers from would-be grifters, they get very mad and start dispensing retribution.

Retaliation for what we shall call the Great Chair Fiasco isn’t Foster’s only complaint; she also alleges a Trump appointee sought to fire a HUD worker for being “critical” of Trump, and that she was retaliated against after discovering a $10.8 million shortfall in the 2016 budget. So it sounds like our brief respite from talking about Ben Carson’s department and its scandals will soon be over.

Is it possible that every single Trump appointee is this prone to grifting and corruption strictly by accident? It half feels like they are all trying to team up on us in the hopes that we will be so overwhelmed with various scandals, one after the other after the next, that we won’t notice until long after they’ve left that they’ve made off with all the federal staplers or something.

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