Eric Blankenstein, a senior Trump appointee, announced he was leaving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month after he was forced to apologize for online posts he wrote years ago questioning whether the n-word was racist.
But Blankenstein won’t be leaving the Trump administration altogether. The former private-sector lawyer is joining the Department of Housing and Urban Development, according to a person familiar with the matter. The news was first reported by Politico.
Blankenstein will join HUD’s Office of General Counsel as a senior counsel starting Monday, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters. Blankenstein will be taking a pay cut. At the CFPB he earned 259,500 a year, making him among the highest paid employees in the government. At HUD he will earn $166,500.
Blankenstein, a policy director at the CFPB responsible for enforcing the country’s fair lending laws, had been operating under a cloud at the CFPB since September, when The Washington Post reported on blog posts he had written more than a decade ago. In one post, Blankenstein described abortion as the “state sponsored destruction of life.”
In another, he repeatedly questioned the need for special enforcement of hate crimes. “Shouldn’t we be more concerned that the crime happened period?” he wrote. “Does it matter that someone got beat up because they were black, or does it matter that someone got beat up?”
He faced an open rebellion by CFPB subordinates who sent mass emails harshly criticizing his writings. Several Democratic senators also called for Blankenstein to be fired.
Blankenstein later said he regretted “some” of the things he wrote. “The tone and framing of my statements reflected poor judgment,” he said in a note to colleagues in October 2018.
The bureau’s inspector general launched an investigation into Blankenstein’s remarks but has not released a report.
Consumer advocates were critical of Blankenstein’s new role. “What’s the Trump HUD’s excuse for hiring him after knowing full well what kind of character they were dealing with? What a message this sends: racism won’t just be tolerated in this administration, it’ll lead to more opportunities,” Derek Martin, director of consumer watchdog group Allied Progress, said in a statement.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), the ranking Democrat of the Banking Committee, who previously objected to Blankenstein resigning from the CFPB rather than being fired, also criticized the move. HUD “should be working to address housing discrimination across the country, not serving as a dumping ground for a disgraced, racist Trump appointee,” he said.
HUD didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on those criticisms. Blankenstein didn’t return an email seeking comment.
Blankenstein will be working on issues related to Ginnie Mae, a government-owned company that buys mortgages from lenders and repackages them to sell to investors.