Lee took particular aim at U.S. support during the Obama administration for the overseas work of nonprofits bankrolled by liberal billionaire George Soros.
“Whatever one’s views about abortion, energy regulation, alternative family structures, they are neither core international priorities of the American people, nor essential to American national security. They are domestic political controversies, pet causes of a sort of privileged, globalist elite,” Lee said in the speech at The Heritage Foundation.
“Yet for eight years under President Obama’s administration, they were the substance of a global reeducation campaign, funded by … American taxpayers,” the Utah Republican said.
Lee made the remarks, in which he specifically criticized the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, ahead of a panel discussion on U.S. foreign assistance at The Heritage Foundation.
“President Trump and his team must change the culture of American diplomacy towards one that prioritizes American interests and respects the sovereignty and self-determination of other peoples,” Lee said.
Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal would cut funding for the State Department and USAID by 28 percent.
The senator noted that Eastern European countries are more socially conservative than Western European countries because of the influence of Catholic and Orthodox churches. He said they also are more economically conservative because of their past suffering under communism.
The citizens of countries such as Macedonia, Poland, and Albania see the U.S. government spending money on progressive political causes as a “well-funded external political activism that undermines legitimate governments and long-held cultural norms of their nations with leftist policies and leftist politicians,” Lee said, adding:
And who can question their concerns, when the State Department and USAID have provided millions of American taxpayer dollars to organizations in Eastern Europe associated with well-known progressive advocates like George Soros and his Open Society Foundations, who make no secrets about the kinds of politics they support?
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 25, 2017
The mission of USAID, which has a $22.7 billion annual budget, is to fight poverty and promote democracy abroad.
A State Department spokesman told The Daily Signal in a written statement that USAID money is properly accounted for.
“USAID is committed to accountability and transparency and to the oversight of U.S. government funds to ensure they are not subject to waste, fraud, or abuse,” the spokesman said in an email. “USAID regularly conducts rigorous reviews and audits of programs implemented by partner organizations. These reviews are conducted to measure the programs’ effectiveness and efficiency and to ensure their compliance with applicable statutes, regulations, and policies.”
Lee’s chief example was Macedonia:
Macedonia today is embroiled in a governing crisis that has been brought about largely by external interference in domestic issues and political processes. The crisis has deepened the political divide in the country and threatens to inflame ethnic tensions.
Such unrest is like an engraved invitation to an opportunist like [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, who can inflame divisions and actively court populations who feel that they have been betrayed by the United States.