Elizabeth Warren

Confirmation Hearing of Dr. Ben Carson - Jan. 12, 2017

Elizabeth Warren
January 12, 2017— Washington, D.C.
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WARREN: Dr. Carson, thank you for being here.

CARSON: Thank you.

WARREN: Before we get into some of the questions that I raised in my letter, to you earlier this week, I just want to get an answer to a –I think a simple yes-or-no question. If you are confirmed to lead HUD, you will be responsible for issuing billions of dollars in grants and loans to help develop housing and provide a lot of housing-related services. Now, housing developments is an area in which President-elect Trump and his family have significant business interests. Can you assure that not a single taxpayer dollar that you give out will financially benefit the President-elect or his family?

CARSON: Well, Senator, I was worried that you wouldn’t get back. Thank you for coming back.

WARREN: I’m back!

CARSON: I can assure you that the things that I do are driven by a sense of morals and values. And therefore I will absolutely not play favorites for anyone.

WARREN: Dr. Carson, let me stop right there. I’m actually trying to ask a more pointed question, and it’s not about your good faith. That’s not my concern. My concern is whether or not billions of dollars that you will be responsible for handing out in grants and loans, can you just assure us that not one dollar will go to benefit either the President-elect or his family?

CARSON: It will not be my intention to do anything to benefit any – any – American.

WARREN: I understand that.

CARSON: It’s for all American, everything that we do.

WARREN: Do I take that to mean that you may manage programs that will significantly benefit the President-elect?

CARSON: You can take it to mean that I will manage things in a way that benefits the American people. That is going to be the goal.

WARREN: To the best, you understand that.

CARSON: If there happens to be an extraordinarily good programs that’s working for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you’re targeting is going to gain, you know, ten dollars from it, am I going to say “No, the rest of you Americans can’t have it”? I think logic and common sense probably would be the best way.

WARREN: Yeah, although we do have a problem here. And I appreciate your good faith in this and I do, Dr. Carson. The problem is that you can’t assure us that HUD money—not of ten dollar varieties, but of multimillion-dollar varieties- will not end up in the President-elect’s pockets. And the reason you can’t assure of that is because the President-elect is hiding his family’s business interests from you, from me, from the rest of America. And this just highlights the absurdity and the danger of the President-elect’s refusal to put his assets in a true blind trust. He knows – he, the President-elect knows – what will benefit him and his family financially. But the public doesn’t. Which means he can divert taxpayer money into his own pockets without anyone knowing about it. The only way that the American people can know that the President is working in their best interest and not in his own is if he divests and puts his assets in a true blind trust. Transferring his holdings to his children does nothing. As the head of the non-partisan Ethics Committee said just last night. Since the President-elect refuses to address this voluntarily, we need to pass the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act that I introduced with more than 20 of my colleagues, which would require him to do so.

So, with the time I have left I want to follow up with the letter that I sent to you earlier this week and that we talked about in my office.

CARSON: I appreciated that.

WARREN: And I appreciated it to. As you know, more than 7 million children rely on HUD for housing. 7 million people, many children and veterans of people with disabilities. For many of these people HUD is the difference between a stable home and life on the streets. One major problem that we talked about is lead exposure. According to the most recent HUD study, 62,000 public housing units, nearly 6% of our total public housing stock are in need of lead abatement. You’re a highly accomplished doctor, we spoke at length about the implications of lead and lead poisoning on our children. Can I ask you to commit today that you will make sure that HUD resources are dedicated to dramatically reducing the number of public housing units where lead is a problem?

CARSON: I can assure you that I will very much be working with you on that. 310,000 cases right now of children, each of which costs us enormous amounts of money. I don’t even think people calculate that. So yes, I will be very vigorous in that area.

WARREN: I very much appreciate it. This is a particular problem for us in the Northeast, it is a particular problem in Boston where our housing stock is old. It is absolutely critical that we get the lead out of these housing units and that our children have the chance to grow up without being injured by our own negligence. I look forward to working with you.

CARSON: Thank you for your leadership in that area.

WARREN: Thank you, Dr. Carson.