Trump uses foreign aid office as 'dumping ground for partisan loyalists'


A new report shows Trump's White House abusing its power by appointing unqualified 'lackeys' to a key international development office.

Lorelle Atkinson had years of experience in international development. She was a veteran nonpolitical appointee to a federal agency that helps poor countries grow their economies.

But last year, she was forced to resign — while pregnant — to make room for the Trump White House to give away agency jobs as political favors to people with no relevant experience.

The Washington Post published an investigative report this weekend on a pattern of similar political hackery by the Trump White House, which reassigned or forced out qualified experts in order to install political appointees at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

The MCC is a Bush-era international development agency designed as "a technocratic alternative" to traditional foreign aid. In the past, the White House would appoint only the MCC's senior level staffers, and then let those senior staffers hire qualified individuals with relevant experience.

But in a pattern of corruption typical of the Trump administration, the White House has appointed more than double the previous number of political appointees — many lacking even basic qualifications — and either reassigned or forced out nine professionals and experts at the MCC to make room for them.

The Trump administration turned the MCC into "a dumping ground for unqualified partisan loyalists and lackeys," Sen. Bob Menendez, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lamented to the Post.

For instance, the MCC's new vice president of congressional and public affairs is Karen Sessions — a failed congressional candidate who also just happens to be the wife of Trump loyalist Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX).

Trump is trying to fill the top post at the MCC with a Republican Party operative, Sean Cairncross — who has no experience in foreign development, yet is being nominated to run an agency with an $800 million foreign development budget.

The Trump White House also appointed a recent college graduate with a degree in English literature to the MCC — probably because the graduate's grandmother works at the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO).

The PPO, which has been involved in the MCC staffing decisions, is a White House organization responsible for filling thousands of government positions.

But the PPO itself is also staffed with inexperienced Trump operatives. The PPO has already faced its own scandals over staffers playing drinking games and operating the agency like a frat house.

Trump's corrupt disregard for the MCC's international development work follows a pattern of hostility towards people living in developing countries.

In one of his first acts as president, Trump reinstituted and expanded the "global gag rule," a set of severe restrictions on international aid organizations who receive U.S. funding.

The gag rule, championed by anti-abortion advocates, denies foreign aid funding to any organization that even mentions abortion as a medical option for women, regardless of whether or not the organization actually performs abortions.

The result of the gag rule, according to experts in women's health, will be millions of women losing access to contraception, and thousands of women dying.

Trump also referred to Haiti and nations in Africa as "shithole countries," disparaging millions of people and insulting many countries that receive U.S. foreign assistance.

Trump's actions at the MCC "will inevitably undermine the ability of this technocratic agency to fulfill its mission," says a former Treasury official who worked closely with the MCC.

Even though Trump's corruption is centered in Washington, D.C., the impact is felt around the globe.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.