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Ben Carson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Photo: JIM WATSON / AFP / Getty Images

The Department of Housing and Urban Development used $31,000 to purchase a custom hardwood table, chairs and a hutch for Secretary Ben Carson’s office late last year, per The Guardian.

The agency didn't seek congressional approval for the purchase, even though federal law mandates authorization from lawmakers to "furnish or redecorate the office of a department head” if the total cost is over $5,000, per the New York Times.

  • What they're saying: A HUD spokesman told the Times that Carson “didn’t know the table had been purchased” but doesn't think it's overly expensive and has no plans to return it, the Times said.
  • Why it matters: Carson is also facing scrutiny and a probe by his agency’s inspector general into his son’s involvement in an agency-sponsored listening tour in Baltimore last year. Attorneys at the agency had reportedly warned both that it could be conflict of interest.

Go deeper

7 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

7 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.

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