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Embattled Trump appointee resigns from Department of Veterans Affairs

Updated 7:34 PM ET, Thu March 14, 2019

Washington (CNN) - The top communications official at the Department of Veterans Affairs, John Ullyot, announced his resignation Thursday, according to an internal email obtained by CNN and a statement from Secretary Robert Wilkie.

Ullyot will officially leave his post as the assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs in early April and will be "announcing an exciting new position shortly," according to the email.

A White House appointee, Ullyot was widely considered to be a staunch loyalist of President Donald Trump during his two years at the VA and praised the President's leadership in an note to colleagues announcing his decision to leave the department.

"Under the leadership of President Trump, VA has done more in the last two years than it has in decades in reforming the department and improving care and benefits for our nation's heroes. As a Marine Veteran, I consider myself fortunate to have played a modest role in this historic effort, together with each of you," he wrote.

Wilkie confirmed Ullyot's departure in a statement to CNN.

"For the last two years, John Ullyot has provided exceptional service to Veterans during one of the most productive times of reform for VA in decades," Wilkie wrote. "As a former Marine and longtime public servant, John understands the issues facing our Veterans and the importance of improving our service to them.

"We will miss John's leadership, but he will always remain a friend of VA, and he will be a great addition to whichever team he joins next," he added.

Ullyot came under fire in December after emails surfaced showing he discouraged the department's former chief diversity officer from posting a more forceful condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis who participated in the deadly August 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

At the time, Wilkie defended Ullyot in a statement, confirming he was "on the VA team because he is committed to Veterans and has spent a lifetime of exceptional service as a Marine and public servant."

Last March, USA Today and The Washington Post reported that Ullyot tried to facilitate the ouster of then-secretary David Shulkin by trying to get a top House Veterans' Affairs Committee staffer to encourage members to demand his resignation.

Ullyot disputed those reports at the time and issued a statement that called the allegation "ridiculous."

The White House announced Ullyot's appointment in March 2017. Before joining the VA he served as a managing partner at Brighton Strategy Group.

Prior to that, Ullyot served as director of communications for both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.

He is also a former intelligence officer and Scout Sniper Platoon Commander in the US Marine Corps, according to the VA.


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