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Contentious USAID appointee to take leave after 3 months on job

Pete Marocco, a Trump administration political appointee whose heavy-handed efforts to reshape a USAID bureau led colleagues to pen a furious “dissent channel” memo, announced Thursday that he would be going on personal leave.

It was not immediately clear if Marocco planned or would be permitted to return to the U.S. Agency for International Development. His departure, however, comes after an employee town hall this week during which dozens of staff members exploded in frustration over his brief time leading the agency’s Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Stabilization.

“He was raked over the coals,” one USAID employee said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution. “It was professional, but ruthless.”

A spokesperson for USAID did not immediately offer comment. Marocco himself did not immediately respond to a phone call or text message seeking comment.

In an email obtained by POLITICO, Marocco told top officials in the conflict prevention bureau that he’d “been planning to take some personal time for a while,” including seeing some family. He said he’d be gone for the rest of October and the beginning of November.

Marocco joined USAID just a few months ago, in July. He is one of several political appointees who have joined USAID in recent months, some of whom have a history of controversial comments and actions.

Under President Donald Trump, Marocco already had held positions at the departments of Defense, State and Commerce. His arrival at USAID sparked concerns from the start because he’d left a trail of angry colleagues in past jobs.

Marocco immediately began imposing changes in the conflict prevention bureau that alarmed its employees, including demanding an end to long-approved programs and trying to shift the bureau’s focus more toward issues like national security.

Tensions flared so much that some staff members put together a 13-page memo detailing their frustrations. They alleged that “thousands” of hours of staff time had been spent on unnecessary and unproductive requests from Marocco.

The memo was shared with international aid agency’s top leaders via its “Dissent Channel,” a vehicle that allows staff members to air grievances or policy differences without fear of reprisal.

Multiple USAID officials said they were elated that Marocco was taking leave and expected it would be permanent. Some noted, however, that Marocco’s future in government could depend on whether Trump wins reelection in November.

Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

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