Nonetheless, three of the agency’s division were especially crippled under his watch. One was the unit responsible for overseeing disbursement of federal block grants to states hit by hurricanes and other natural disasters. Another was the homeless assistance operation. The third was the fair housing division, whose job is to enforce federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity and disability.
This was the unit Mr. Trump singled out for attack in the 2020 campaign, stoking white grievance by claiming that an initiative to review discriminatory local zoning restrictions was a war on suburbia.
The fair housing division, led by a Texas Republican operative named Anna Maria Farías, became an especially toxic workplace, according to three former staff members with knowledge of the situation.
Shortly after taking over, Ms. Farías informed her staff that she intended to root out “Obama plants” and froze antidiscrimination investigations involving large residential construction companies, including Toll Brothers and Epcon Communities, and an inquiry into Facebook’s online advertising division, among others.
As part of the overall strategy of reducing regulatory action, Ms. Farías sidelined two of the unit’s most experienced managers, Bryan Greene, who had served as interim chief of the division, and Tim Smyth, a young lawyer working on some of the department’s most complex cases involving housing discrimination.
Ms. Farías bypassed Mr. Greene, and stopped inviting him to meetings of his own staff. She marginalized Mr. Smyth in similar fashion, according to officials who worked with both men. The pair eventually left after being reassigned to jobs unrelated to major civil rights cases.
Ms. Farías did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Mr. Carson’s political staff aides, housed on the agency’s 10th floor, were, at times, unaware of these machinations, and not even knowledgeable about basic departmental functions, according to people who worked with them at the time.