Official resigns after Interior says HUD Secretary Ben Carson sent ‘false information’ about staffing change

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A Housing and Urban Development official caught up in a controversy involving HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has resigned, a HUD spokesman said Friday.

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The Interior Department had said Thursday that Carson spread “false information” in an email that the HUD political appointee, Suzanne Israel Tufts, was going to become Interior’s internal watchdog, raising questions about whether the Trump administration was trying to undercut investigations into Zinke.

Democrats and watchdog groups had complained after an email from Carson to HUD staff last Friday, obtained by ABC News, said Tufts, an assistant secretary for administration at HUD, was leaving to become acting inspector general at Interior.

Friday evening, a HUD spokesman, Raffi Williams, emailed reporters saying, “Assistant Secretary Tufts has offered her resignation and it has been accepted. Secretary Carson thanks her for her service to the Administration and the country. We wish her all the best.”

No other details were provided. Attempts to reach Tufts have been unsuccessful.

PHOTO: HUD Plaza outside the headquarters building of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C.Getty Images
HUD Plaza outside the headquarters building of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C.

The watchdog groups had joined Democrats in raising questions about whether Tufts, as a political appointee with no specific experience in government oversight, should be nominated for a job where she could quash current investigations into Zinke.

Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said in an email Thursday that multiple news stories reporting Tufts was slated to be nominated to take over the inspector general’s office at Interior are not true.

“This is a classic example of the media jumping to conclusions and reporting before all facts are known,” Swift said in the email.

“Ms. Tufts was referred to the Department by the White House as a potential candidate for a position in the Inspector General’s office. At the end of the day, she was not offered a job at Interior,” Swift said. The exact timing wasn’t clear, though, and Swift did not immediately respond to a request for details.

PHOTO: The Department of Interior headquarters building is pictured as the Magnolia trees blossom in Washington, Mar. 13, 2016.J.David Ake/AP, FILE
The Department of Interior headquarters building is pictured as the Magnolia trees blossom in Washington, Mar. 13, 2016.

The White House, which nominates inspectors general and can reassign senior officials, has not responded to questions.

A spokeswoman from the Interior inspector general’s office said they have not received any information about a possible staffing change and Swift said deputy inspector general Mary Kendall is still in her job.



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