Trump appointee at USAID rails against election, media, and public health measures

Photo by: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Candice Villarreal / Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs / CC BY-NC

A political appointee overseeing the U.S. Agency for International Development’s democracy and governance work lashed out against the media, government officials, and public health measures in an email to staff members Tuesday.

Rick Guy, acting director for democracy, rights, and governance in USAID’s Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation, repeated debunked claims of widespread voter fraud in the November U.S. election and cited his own research to allege ties between U.S. voting software and China and Venezuela.

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Guy was hired at USAID amid an influx of controversial political appointees who were selected by the White House Presidential Personnel Office for their loyalty to President Donald Trump. Guy received his appointment after his son, Joseph Guy, was also given a position at the agency.

“We Americans are the first to decry authoritarian governmental actions, election interference, and election fraud when they occur in foreign countries,” Guy wrote to his democracy, rights, and governance colleagues in an email with the subject line "2020 Hindsight - My Thoughts as Requested."

He then launched into a tirade against “media fomented violent rioting,” “unprecedented abuses of fundamental civil liberties by governors and mayors ostensibly for the purpose of protecting public health,” and “authoritarian abuses in the United States that before 2020 could never have been imagined.”

“We at USAID’s Center for Democracy, [Human] Rights, and Governance would denounce the use of e-voting machines in a foreign election if no effective observation of the ballots were done,” Guy wrote, repeating claims about election observation that have been consistently debunked, including by international election observers, and repeatedly rejected in court.

His email, which Devex obtained, came shortly after a recording was published in The Washington Post, in which another Trump appointee in the same bureau, Tim Meisburger, said that what he saw in the Capitol Hill riots on Wednesday “was a lot of people who were committed to reform” and in which he disputed his own staff members’ comments that it was “not a peaceful protest.”

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USAID’s Washington headquarters is located just blocks away from the U.S. Capitol building, which rioters — spurred on by false information about election fraud — violently attacked last week, leading to the deaths of five people. Law enforcement has warned of additional threats of violence against lawmakers and others in Washington in the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

In his email Tuesday, Guy wrote, “We saw some of the many protesters in DC last week go beyond the rules of reason and law and commit violent acts,” and added that, “All who broke the law need to be held to account.”

But he quickly returned to concerns about election integrity and told his colleagues, “We need to practice what we preach,” before warning of “the death of the American Republic and the demise of elective democracy amidst arrogant blinding hypocrisy.”

“The opinions expressed by Mr. Guy in his email are his personal opinions. They do not reflect the policies or programs of USAID, the Bureau for Development, Democracy and Innovation, or the Office of Democracy, Rights and Governance,” Pooja Jhunjhunwala, USAID’s acting spokesperson, wrote to Devex.

“USAID leadership is considering whether any additional administrative action is required or appropriate under these circumstances,” Jhunjhunwala added.

Guy did not respond to a request for comment.

Update, Jan. 13, 2021: This story has been updated to include a statement from USAID.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.