The White House has removed the acting chief of a small foreign aid office less than two months after he was put in place to quell controversy over the Trump administration’s use of the agency as a source of jobs for political supporters, according to interviews and an internal email obtained by The Washington Post.
Brock Bierman has served as part-time leader of the Millennium Challenge Corporation since Aug. 21, while also juggling responsibilities as an assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“This afternoon the White House directed that Brock Bierman no longer serve as Acting CEO of MCC,” said a brief email to agency staff Wednesday evening. The email offered no explanation for his removal.
Bierman’s departure is the latest upheaval at an agency that has not had a permanent leader since the start of the Trump administration.
Bierman was the third person in five months to lead the MCC, which promotes economic growth in poor countries. In January, Trump nominated Sean Cairncross to be MCC’s chief executive. The nomination has stalled in the Senate, in part because Cairncross, the former chief operating officer of the Republican National Committee, has no foreign assistance experience.
Bierman succeeded another acting leader, Robert Blau, who resigned amid controversy over the White House’s placement of more than a dozen Trump supporters into jobs previously reserved for development specialists.
Shortly after arriving at MCC, Bierman imposed a hiring freeze on political appointees and told senior staff and congressional aides that he would work to restore MCC’s reputation for independence from political influence, according to an agency official and a congressional aide.
Bierman’s duties will be assumed by Jonathan Nash, the agency’s chief operating officer and a longtime career employee at the agency. Nash also previously served as a temporary MCC chief under Trump.
Bierman did not respond to requests for comment.
He tweeted: “It was an honor and privilege to serve as acting CEO for the Millennium Challenge Corporation these past two months. I am grateful to the President for the opportunity to have lead an incredible group of dedicated professionals. Excited to get back to work full time.”
The White House did not respond to questions about his departure.
Three people familiar with MCC operations, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on behalf of the agency, said the White House decision came after Bierman clashed with senior staff, including Karen Sessions, a political appointee serving as MCC’s vice president for congressional and public affairs. She is the wife of Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas).
Karen Sessions did not respond to requests for comment.
After being told about Bierman’s resignation, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said he intends to examine what happened.
“Mr. Bierman appeared to approach the position of Acting CEO at MCC with a clear vision of how to run an independent, professional agency that the Trump Administration had politicized and turned into a revolving door for campaign aides,” Menendez said in a statement. “I have questions about his abrupt dismissal, and I intend to find out what happened.”
Until Trump, MCC was primarily known for its technocratic staff and innovative efforts to provide economic assistance to poor countries.
In a July 28 story, The Post showed how the Trump administration was using the agency to reward supporters and allies with jobs. In early 2017, the White House Presidential Personnel Office claimed control over 30 MCC jobs.
Over the next year, the PPO filled 14 jobs with Trump supporters and allies. Among them was Blau, a former campaign speechwriter who drew criticism for urging MCC employees to watch Fox News and read Breitbart News. Another appointee was the grandson of a senior PPO official, a young man who graduated from college in 2016 with an English degree.