RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
OK, for more on the politics of the pipeline, we're going to talk now with NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. He's on the line. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MARTIN: We just heard how some are criticizing the Obama administration for in some ways overreaching in this decision. Can you clarify how much do we know about what the White House involvement was?
HORSLEY: Well, we do know that this project had a green light until last September, when a federal court struck down an effort by opponents of the pipeline to block it. And on that remarkable day in September, we had the Justice Department and the Interior Department and the Army Corps of Engineers all come out and put up a caution sign.
MARTIN: Would Donald Trump, once he's in office, would he have the ability to reverse this decision if he wanted to?
HORSLEY: Well, decisions that come from one administration are often subject to reversal. And that's certainly what the pipeline backers are hoping for and what the pipeline opponents are bracing for. The question here is whether in calling for a formal environmental impact statement, the Army Corps has sort of raised the bar. You think of this in like an instant replay review in a football game. The ruling on the field matters. It sort of sets what the default is.
So has the Army Corps here, in calling for an environmental impact statement, given pipeline opponents some leverage they could use in court if the Trump administration tried to move in a different direction?
MARTIN: So we'll obviously keep following that. But I want to switch gears now because we have some news this morning, Donald Trump has named his former political rival Ben Carson as secretary of Housing and Urban Development or HUD as it's known. This is interesting to me because it was just a few weeks ago Ben Carson's aides kind of floated this idea that Carson didn't feel like he had enough government experience to run an agency, so he's obviously changed his mind.
HORSLEY: Yeah. And that raised some eyebrows when they said he didn't have that kind of experience because after all this was a fellow who put himself up to be president of the United States. He then backtracked and said he was looking at it. And we now have Donald Trump saying he's thrilled with this appointment. He's highlighting Ben Carson's brilliant mind and his passion about strengthening families and communities.
MARTIN: Is Ben Carson a good fit for this particular agency? Any idea what kind of agenda he would set for HUD?
HORSLEY: Well, critics say he is - that he was - his initial assessment was right, that he doesn't have the experience for this sort of post. One critic said, the only thing Ben Carson knows about housing is that he owns a house. HUD is obviously responsible for housing a lot of people and also developing inner cities. And Donald Trump was outspoken during the campaign about what he sees as problems in America's inner cities. He sometimes exaggerated those ills.
The main qualification that Ben Carson brings is his inspiring personal story. He grew up poor in Detroit but managed to win a full scholarship to Yale, went on to the University of Michigan Medical School, became a renowned neurosurgeon. He has however been critical of the kind of social safety-net programs that HUD often oversees. He tends to see those social-safety-net programs as breeding dependency. So he will certainly be an interesting figure to oversee a large department that's responsible for housing a lot of people and providing a lot of resources in America's urban core.
MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Hey, Scott, thanks so much.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.