Trump taps Ben Carson for HUD secretary

David Wright, CNN | 12/5/2016, noon
Ben Carson will be nominated as the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Trump transition ...
Ben Carson CNN

(CNN) -- Ben Carson will be nominated as the next secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Trump transition team announced Monday.

"I am thrilled to nominate Dr. Ben Carson as our next Secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development," President-elect Donald Trump said in a statement. "Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."

During their primary fight, though, Trump had derided Carson as "super low energy" and delivered a number of sharp attacks on Twitter, questioning Carson's temperament and qualifications for office.

"With Ben Carson wanting to hit his mother on head with a hammer, stab a friend and Pyramids built for grain storage - don't people get it?" Trump tweeted in November of 2015, when he and Carson were still rivals. At a rally in Fort Dodge, Iowa, the same month, Trump had delivered a similarly blistering attack on Carson.

"If you're a child molester, a sick puppy, a child molester, there's no cure for that. There's only one cure, and we don't want to talk about that cure, that's the ultimate cure. No there's two, there's death and the other thing. But if you're a child molester, there's no cure, they can't stop you. Pathological, there's no cure," Trump said.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan praised Carson's nomination for HUD secretary.

"@RealBenCarson is a great choice for @HUDgov. A shining example of overcoming poverty, he will put focus on dignity rather than dependence," Ryan tweeted.

But Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, the Democratic ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, slammed the pick, calling Carson "woefully unqualified."

"[Trump] has no selected someone woefully unqualififed to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development. During his time in Baltimore, Dr. Ben Carson was a phenomenal neurosurgeon, but he has no experience developing housing policy affecting tens of millions of households or running a complex federal agency, as his own spokesman admitted just last month," the Maryland representative said in a statement.

Cummings was referencing reports that Carson rejected a previous offer from Trump to be the next secretary of Health and Human services because he felt he was too inexperienced to run a federal agency, according to longtime aide Armstrong Williams. Responding to those reports, Williams had said, "He's never run an agency and it's a lot to ask. He's a neophyte and that's not his strength."

Carson's unsuccessful primary campaign was punctuated by rookie blunders and odd claims, including that the Egyptian pyramids were used to store grain. "The pyramids were made in a way that they had hermetically sealed compartments," he said. "You wouldn't need hermetically sealed compartments for a sepulcher. You would need that if you were trying to preserve grain for a long period of time."

He is known for offering provocative commentary on a wide range of issues, including comparing the modern American government to Nazi Germany in a March 2014 interview with Breitbart, and saying at the Voter Values Summit in 2013 that Obamacare is "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery."