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House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs committee sent a letter on Wednesday to the acting administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — 15 hours before he is set to testify before the committee — demanding he fire Merritt Corrigan, an aide with a history of making homophobic comments.

Why it matters: The letter escalates pressure on acting administrator John Barsa to address criticism — including from several of his employees — that the agency's recent hires have created a hostile work environment.

  • The letter also suggests that Democratic committee members will use Thursday's routine budget hearing to press Barsa on the controversy over USAID's internal affairs.
  • USAID did not respond to a request for comment.

Context: The White House initially rejected hiring Corrigan because of her history of inflammatory statements. But John McEntee, a 30-year-old former body man who now runs the administration's hiring process, installed her at USAID anyway, sparking intense internal backlash.

Details: The letter says Corrigan's "record of public remarks, including disparaging LGBTQ people and those who express support for them, women in positions of leadership, and immigrants, is appalling, and has no place in a federal agency."

  • The letter cites several of Corrigan's most inflammatory comments, adding that they are "left wondering how Ms. Corrigan is able to effectively serve an agency whose principles are so clearly antithetical to her own."
  • It ends by stating: "For the sake of USAID’s employees, the beneficiaries it supports around the world, and the core values of the agency, we urge you to immediately condemn this speech, and demand Ms. Corrigan’s resignation."

Read a copy of the letter.

Go deeper

Dominion sends cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems on Monday sent a cease and desist letter to My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell over his spread of misinformation related to the 2020 election.

Why it matters: Trump and several of his allies have pushed false conspiracy theories about the company, leading Dominion to take legal action. It's suing pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation and $1.3 billion in damages, and a Dominion employee has sued Trump himself, OANN and Newsmax.

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: Trump vs. Gina — The president becomes increasingly rash and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.