Ben Carson would not answer whether President-elect Donald Trump could benefit from Department of Housing and Urban Develop loans during a fierce line of questioning from Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren at his confirmation hearing Thursday.
"If there happens to be an extraordinarily good program that's working for millions of people and it turns out that someone that you're targeting is going to gain, you know, $10 from it, am I going to say 'No'?" Carson asked. "Logic and common sense probably would be the best way."
Trump, who has made most of his fortune in real estate, announced on Wednesday an ethics plan aimed at avoiding conflicts of interests between his business dealings and role as president. But Warren, along with the head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and ethics experts, said the plan falls far short.
"The reason you can't assure us of that is because the president-elect is hiding his family's business interests from you, from me, from the rest of America," Warren said.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown noted that Trump's financial disclosure forms show he owns a stake in at least one government-subsidized rental property in New York City. Carson promised to alert the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committeeto to any potential dealings with the property.
Carson faced tough questions from Democrats for both his own past comments and those of the president-elect. Many sought assurances that Carson, who has pledged to cut billions in government spending, would preserve government assistance to afford housing.
"Safety net programs are important, I would never advocate abolishing them without an alternative," Carson said. He called rental assurance "essential."
The accomplished neurosurgeon turned 2016 presidential candidate previously indicated he had no interest in serving in Trump's cabinet amid speculation he could be nominated to lead Health and Human Services. Instead he was chosen to head HUD, an area where his views are largely unknown.
Carson also faced questions about how he would manage a large federal agency with a $48 billion budget. He pledged to surround himself with knowledgeable people and go on a "listening tour" to solicit the best ideas from people around the country.
Carson gained national prominence in 1987 for his role in helping to separate infant conjoined twins. His life story was made into a movie and was at the center of his presidential run.