Ximena Barreto — a Donald Trump political appointee who used social media to spread conspiracy theories about a supposed pizza shop sex ring and made other inflammatory remarks — was escorted from Health and Human Services Department headquarters Friday, according to an individual with knowledge of the situation.
Barreto resigned, the individual said. HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. An email sent to Barreto’s HHS account Friday night produced a bounce-back message that the message was “undeliverable.”
Before joining HHS as a deputy communications director in December 2017, Barreto spread conspiracy theories on social media and through online videos — among them that Hillary Clinton was engaged in a child-sex ring at a Washington pizza shop, involved in the murder of Democratic National Committee aide Seth Rich and employed pedophiles in her campaign. Barreto also repeatedly insulted Islam as a “cult” and shared a post suggesting that “our forefathers would have hung” Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for treason, CNN and other outlets first reported.
After Barreto’s posts became public this spring, she was placed on review and subsequently reassigned to HHS’ Administration for Children & Families.
Barreto is the third HHS staffer to depart after POLITICO profiled the way Trump appointees were using social media to spread conspiracy theories and make controversial statements. Gavin Smith, a communications staffer who publicly attacked lawmakers and reporters, was pushed out earlier this month. Tim Clark, who served as White House liaison and helped hire Barreto and Smith, also has left his role.
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