Image: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Before Ben Carson accepted President Donald Trump’s offer to become secretary of housing and urban development, a friend implored him to turn down the job to preserve the reputation he had earned as a brilliant neurosurgeon and lost, in part, as a politician.

The confidant, Logan Delany Jr., who was the treasurer of Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign, described HUD as a “swamp” of “corruption.” He predicted in an email that Carson’s “lack of a background in housing” would make him prey to the department’s career staff and political appointees, as well as predatory lobbyists.

To drive home the point, Delany appended a link toan obituary of Samuel R. Pierce Jr., the Reagan-era HUD secretary whose reputation as a trailblazing black corporate lawyer was tarnished by accusations that he steered contracts to Republican cronies.

Carson’s efforts to steer the agency toward programs that foster self-sufficiency, one of his stated goals, have been undermined by staffing mistakes, his indecisiveness and a president indifferent, at best, to the department’s mission of helping the poor, according to two dozen current and former HUD and administration officials

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