In the rogue’s gallery of ethical conflict that is the Trump Cabinet, the Ben Carson dining-set flap has been a minor exhibit. The high-flying ways of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have been much more prominent. And the gallery’s Tom Price wing has already closed.

But that is changing now that Carson, the Housing and Urban Development chief, and his staff have been caught in a falsehood worthy of the president himself.

On March 5, Carson denied any direct knowledge of the $31,561 price tag for refurbishing his office with a fancy mahogany dining set. “I was as surprised as anyone to find out that a $31,000 dining set had been ordered,” he wrote in a Facebook post. But newly published emails, revealed under a Freedom of Information Act request from the watchdog group American Oversight, tell a different story.

Carson and his wife, Candy, knew exactly what they wanted and what they were getting.

Mother Jones reports:

An August email from a career administration staffer, with the subject line “Secretary’s dining room set needed,” to Carson’s assistant refers to “printouts of the furniture the Secretary and Mrs. Carson picked out.”… 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.

The New York Times adds:

The emails document a lengthy back and forth between Mr. Carson’s wife and his closest aides over the smallest details of the dining room set, including a dozen swatches detailing the fabrics available for the chairs, which were reviewed by Mrs. Carson.

On Wednesday, HUD spokesman Raffi Williams acknowledged: “When presented with options by professional staff, Mrs. Carson participated in the selection of specific styles.”

It’s not as if Carson was unaware that such an expensive purchase was out of bounds. The Times reports that last spring, “HUD staff members and lawyers … counseled Mr. Carson and his advisers against making any purchase over $5,000 regardless of the need.”

The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating.

—Posted by Gregory Glover

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