A political appointee overseeing a small foreign assistance agency that has been used by the White House as a source of jobs for Trump administration supporters is resigning, according to an email he sent to agency employees on Tuesday.
Robert Blau, a retired Foreign Service officer and speechwriter for Trump’s presidential campaign, was named vice president of operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation in May 2017. He assumed the duties of the chief executive in May of this year, after the Senate failed to move on Trump’s nominee to lead the agency.
Blau’s email said he told the White House early last week that he would step down next Tuesday. The email was obtained by The Washington Post.
In a brief telephone call, Blau declined to comment. The White House also declined to comment, and the agency did not respond to emails.
Two people speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on his behalf said Blau has said he wanted to returned to Florida, where he and his wife lived before he joined the campaign, and did not want to renew a lease in the Washington region.
Blau’s announcement followed a July 28 Washington Post story that detailed how the White House had assumed control over hiring at the headquarters of Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, a small independent agency that promotes economic growth in poor countries.
In prior administrations, only the chief executive and several other top officials at the agency had been selected by the White House. The chief executive then used authority granted by Congress to appoint about two dozen other staffers, primarily for their development experience.
The Trump White House has filled 14 jobs with political appointees, more than twice the number at MCC on the day the president took office, The Post reported. Some veteran employees were placed in other jobs or forced to leave the agency to make room for Trump appointees. Administration officials have asserted that they control 30 appointed jobs at MCC, The Post reported.
Among the new appointees are a former municipal worker in Florida and the wife of a congressman. Another is a 2016 college graduate with a degree in English literature whose grandmother is a senior personnel official in the White House.
Blau was among the most controversial of the appointees. Soon after arriving at MCC, he filled his office with Trump campaign memorabilia. During a staff meeting last year, he urged employees to watch Fox News and read Breitbart News and characterized The Washington Post and CNN as “very biased,” according to a recording made for employees who could not attend the meeting.
Blau also expressed skepticism about a recent speaker who had promoted gay and lesbian pride.
“I’m not someone who celebrates diversity, or engineers it. To me, diversity just happens,” he said, according to a recording made public by Foreign Policy magazine earlier this year.
In his email Tuesday, Blau said he has worked at MCC “alongside highly-dedicated, incredibly talented individuals employed overseas and here in headquarters.”
“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve in the Trump Administration,” he wrote. “I will be returning to Florida, where I will continue to support the Trump Administration, and also cheer MCC on as it takes on ever-greater development and foreign policy challenges.”