House Democrats on Thursday blasted John Barsa, the acting administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, for overseeing the appointment of controversial political appointees to key posts in the agency.
Barsa testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday morning to discuss the Trump administration’s budget request for the next fiscal year. But Democrats seized on the hearing to grill Barsa on the appointments of hardline, pro-Trump conservatives to key USAID positions that have stirred internal tensions among career staff at the agency.
Congressional Democrats have focused on the appointments of Mark Kevin Lloyd as USAID’s religious freedom adviser and Merritt Corrigan as USAID’s deputy White House liaison. Seven Senate Democrats wrote to Barsa in June demanding an investigation into Lloyd and Corrigan’s social media statements.
In late June, Reps. Joaquin Castro and Ilhan Omar called for the firing of Lloyd due to what they said was his “historical pattern of prejudice against the Islamic faith and the Muslim population.” Previous reporting by the Associated Press and the Washington Post revealed Lloyd called Islam “a barbaric cult” and accused former President Barack Obama of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in online posts.
Twenty House Democrats wrote to Barsa yesterday to request the resignation of Corrigan, citing her reported history of “homophobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic” comments. POLITICO reported Corrigan wrote on Twitter in 2019 that “our homo-empire couldn’t tolerate even one commercial enterprise not in full submission to the tyrannical LGBT agenda” and decried liberal democracy.
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) pressed Barsa on why Merritt Corrigan was appointed to her role as deputy White House liaison. Engel said Corrigan held views opposed to USAID’s mission, citing her past comments that Engel labeled homophobic.
“All USAID employees regardless of hiring category are held to the high moral, legal and ethical standards that USAID has always had in place,” Barsa said.
When Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.) followed up with Barsa on the hirings of Lloyd and Corrigan, Barsa repeated his response to Engel about the high standards USAID employees were held to.
“It just seems a little contrary to what you’re supposed to be doing to have people in these leadership positions who take contrary positions or have a contrary agenda,” Titus said. “It seems to me that it would be extremely difficult to pursue that agenda of equality and empowerment if you don’t have it in your heart, and apparently in the hearts of many of the people you’ve got at the top levels is a very different kind of feeling.”