NEW YORK — President-elect Donald Trump, moving closer to filling his Cabinet, 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 the real estate mogul continues a series of conferences with aides and others — including unlikely figures such as former Vice President Al Gore — aimed at forming his administration and its policies.
In a statement, Trump said he was "thrilled to nominate" Carson, describing the retired neurosurgeon as having "a brilliant mind" and being "passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities."
Carson would oversee a budget of nearly $50 billion that provides rental assistance for more than 5 million households. Demand for that assistance is high due to housing costs rising faster than incomes. HUD also promotes home ownership with the Federal Housing Administration underwriting about 1 in 6 mortgages issued in the U.S. The agency is also charged with enforcing federal fair housing laws.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Carson has no credentials for the job and was a "disconcerting and disturbingly unqualified choice." She said the country deserves someone with "relevant experience to protect the rights of homeowners and renters."
Trump treated Carson harshly during the primary, saying he had a "pathological temper." Still, Carson quickly endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the contest.
GORE MEETING: Former Vice President Al Gore said Monday he had a "productive" meeting with Donald Trump, calling it "an extremely interesting conversation." Gore, a leading voice on the dangers of climate change, met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in New York City and categorized the meeting as a "sincere search for common ground." During the 2016 presidential race while campaigning for Democrat Hillary Clinton, Gore warned that Trump, "based on the ideas that he has presented, would take us toward a climate catastrophe."
CHINA REACTION: White House spokesman Josh Earnest on Monday said progress with the Chinese could be "undermined" by a flareup over the sovereignty of Taiwan, the self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979. Trump broke protocol last week by speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, then took to Twitter to challenge China's trade and military policies.
RECOUNTS: A federal judge late Sunday night in Detroit ordered a statewide hand recount of roughly 4.8 million ballots, which started in some counties Monday afternoon. Republicans appealed that ruling Monday. Trump won the state by about 10,700 votes, or two-tenths of a percentage point, over Clinton. Meanwhile, the Green Party filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking a statewide recount — a move that came after the party on Saturday dropped a case set to be argued Monday in state courts. And in Wisconsin, six counties had completed their work as of Monday morning, with the margin between Trump and Clinton unchanged. Both candidates lost 20 votes.