Ben Carson watches as Donald Trump takes the stage during the CNBC Republican presidential debate at the University of Colorado, Oct. 28, 2015, in Boulder, Colo.
Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP

Trump admin says Ben Carson peddled ‘100 percent false information’

The Rachel Maddow Show, 10/18/18, 9:00 PM ET

Shame tempers shopping for friendlier inspector general for Zinke

Rachel Maddow reports on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s sketchy ethics and how a plan to replace the inspector general investigating Zinke with someone more sympathetic was exposed and abruptly reversed.
Rachel Maddow reports on Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s sketchy ethics and how a plan to replace the inspector general investigating Zinke with someone more sympathetic was exposed and abruptly reversed.
Seven days ago, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced that one of his aides, Suzanne Israel Tufts, was leaving her post – after just seven months – to serve as the Interior Department’s inspector general. This quickly turned into a rather elaborate mess.

After all, Interior Department’s inspector general is investigating Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, and replacing her would risk derailing her ongoing work. For that matter, as Rachel explained on the show last night, Suzanne Israel Tufts is woefully unqualified to oversee an internal federal watchdog office.

The whole thing reeked of corruption, right up until yesterday afternoon, when the Trump administration said there’d been a big misunderstanding.

…Interior Department officials said that they did not approve the hiring of a political appointee as their agency’s acting watchdog, calling the announcement of her move by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson “100 percent false information.”

The Interior Department’s longtime inspector general, Mary Kendall, remains at her post. As luck would have it, she released some fresh information yesterday that created new problems for Zinke.

But before we move on from this mess, it sure would be nice to know how it unfolded in the first place. Is this all really Ben Carson’s fault?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the timeline of events.

* Oct. 12: Carson alerts HUD employees to Tufts and says she’ll be Interior’s new inspector general.

* Oct. 16: A wide variety of major news organizations, including MSNBC and NBC News, report on Carson’s announcement.

* Oct. 18: The Trump administration says there’s been no change and Carson was wrong about Tufts’ new job.

But it’s awfully difficult to accept the official story at face value. If Carson’s announcement last week was “100 percent false information,” why didn’t anyone correct it sooner? Why take six days?

For that matter, Carson may say a lot of deeply strange things, but it seems unlikely he’d just make up an entirely new career change for one of his top aides. The HUD secretary must’ve had some reason to believe Tufts was poised to become Interior’s IG, since he’d have no incentive to invent such news.

Clearly, the administration has decided throwing Carson under the bus is the most convenient solution, but the whole thing is awfully weird.