President-elect Donald Trump, moving to complete formation of his Cabinet and decide other key administration posts, chose former campaign rival Ben Carson on Monday to be Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Trump’s decision, announced by his transition office, comes as he continues a series of interviews, meetings with aides and other deliberations aimed at forming his administration and following his announcement of several Cabinet appointees last week.
In a statement, Trump said he was “thrilled to nominate” Carson, describing the retired neurosurgeon as having “a brilliant mind” and saying he “is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities.”
Carson had been coy about joining the new administration, saying shortly after Trump’s election victory that he wasn’t certain he’d fit into a Cabinet-style role. The discussion at that time centered on speculation that Carson might be selected to head the sprawling Department of Health and Human Services.
“Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country,” Trump said, “and is part of ensuring that this is a presidency representing all Americans.”
Carson was among the 16 Republican candidates who challenged Trump for the Republican nomination. He was a favorite of religious conservatives and a strong fundraiser, but his team burned through money quickly and he failed to win any of the early primary contests.
Carson endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the contest.
As a Trump supporter, Carson was both loyal and critical. He conceded that Trump had “major defects” and said at one point that he would have preferred a scenario other than Trump winning the Republican primary.
Last week, Trump announced that he planned to nominate former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin as his Treasury secretary and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. He chose Betsy DeVos to be secretary of education and Elaine Chao, the wife of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, to be transportation secretary. Trump also has turned to retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to be secretary of defense.
He now has expanded his pool of candidates for secretary of state, raising a question about whether former CIA Director David Petraeus’s guilty plea for leaking classified information disqualifies him to serve as the nation’s top diplomat.
The remark came a week after Trump’s aides confirmed that the president-elect had settled on four finalists for the post. Two people close to the transition told The Associated Press that Trump is moving away from two of the four: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.
That would leave Petraeus as a top contender, along with Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both people close to the transition said Trump’s prolonged decision-making process has left the door open to other options. Among other possibilities, one official says, is Jon Huntsman, a former Republican Utah governor who also served as the ambassador to China and speaks Mandarin.
The people close to the transition spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the private process publicly.