The departure of Glick is the first in what is widely expected to be a broader purge of officials whom President Trump feels to have been insufficiently loyal.
Glick, a long-time Republican foreign policy official, was told early Friday in a letter from the White House that she had until the end of the day to either resign or be fired. When she refused to resign, the White House sent a second letter informing her she was terminated effective immediately. Late Friday, USAID released a statement announcing that Friday would be Glick’s last day but providing no explanation for her firing. USAID confirmed that acting administrator John Barsa has been named acting deputy administrator and will continue to lead the agency.
Barsa’s term as acting administrator was set to expire at midnight Friday, after which his continued service in that role would violate the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. The law states a federal government official can only serve in an acting capacity for 210 days after the position is rendered vacant. The White House never bothered to even nominate someone to permanently replace Mark Green, who resigned in April.
Barsa, who was confirmed as USAID’s assistant administrator for Latin America last year, was chosen as the acting administrator despite having worked in the agency for less than a year. Earlier on Friday, the USAID ethics office sent Barsa a letter, which I obtained, stating that he had to hand over the reins of the agency to Glick before his term expired.
“By operation of law, at midnight, you return to being the Assistant Administrator for [Latin America],” stated the letter. “[Deputy Administrator] Bonnie Glick will then be the only person who has all the authorities to act as the Administrator and therefore will be the titular ‘Head of the Agency.’”
The White House and a spokesperson for USAID did not respond to requests for comment. Glick also declined to comment.
Barsa’s tenure so far as the acting head of USAID has been marred by controversy. The White House appointed several political loyalists with scant experience in development work to take up senior positions in his office, including a senior adviser on religious freedom with a long track record of Islamophobia.
The White House has tried to slash the agency’s budget in each of its annual budgets so far (though Congress frustrated the cuts). USAID, which operates in dozens of countries around the world, was not invited to join the White House’s coronavirus pandemic task force.
Glick, a former career foreign service officer with decades of development experience, was confirmed as deputy administrator in January 2019. She was fired Friday because the White House would rather have its political allies in control of the agency than an establishment Republican with actual expertise and experience.
Expect that pattern to repeat itself many times over the next two months, several administration sources told me this week. According to them, Trump wants to punish those officials he believes haven’t been sufficiently loyal and have his political minions do as much as possible to advance his political agenda before the possible inauguration of a new president.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, CIA Director Gina Haspel and several other senior officials could be shown the door unceremoniously in the coming days and weeks, multiple sources said. If Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins, as looks increasingly likely, buckle your seat belts. The next few months could get bumpy.