Ben Carson and his wife 'picked out' $31,000 furniture set, new emails show

Carson and his aides have repeatedly claimed that the Hud secretary was not involved in the purchase, but emails contradicts that claim

Ben Carson and his wife personally selected a $31,000 furniture set for his office at the department of housing and urban development, according to a newly released email that contradicts past statements by Carson and his aides.

Carson and his spokesman Raffi Williams repeatedly claimed that the Hud secretary was not involved in a decision to make the purchase, after the Guardian revealed a controversy at the department around the furnishing of his office.

“Nobody was more surprised than me,” Carson said in a statement, before saying that he would cancel the order amid the controversy. Williams, who initially denied that the furniture order existed, also insisted that Carson had no involvement.

But in an email on 29 August last year that was released on Wednesday, an official at Hud wrote that Carson and his wife, Candy, had “picked out” the furniture themselves.

That email followed months of internal discussion about the Carsons’ views on the furniture available to them. In one email in March last year, a facilities staffer said Carson’s team had called to complain that Carson “doesn’t like his chairs”.

The emails were released in response to a freedom of information request by American Oversight, a pro-transparency group founded by former Obama administration officials and ethics campaigners.

Another email released to the group showed Helen Foster, then Hud’s chief administrative officer, stating more than a year ago that she had been “asked about ‘finding’ additional money for furnishing the secretary’s office”.

Foster has alleged in a complaint to a whistleblower agency that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by breaking a $5,000 spending cap for improvements to Carson’s office.

Carson’s team later claimed that the legal cap did not apply to the $31,000 furniture order, because the dining set would be for the benefit of the entire Hud headquarters staff.

Foster’s allegations are now under investigation by Congress. Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who chairs the powerful House oversight committee, has asked Carson to turn over all documents relating to the subject.