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McConnell-Led Senate Confirms Trump Pick to Oversee State-Funded Media Despite Criminal Investigation

Trump’s USAGM Nominee Michael Pack

Despite an active criminal investigation by the D.C. Attorney General, the Mitch McConnell-led U.S. Senate on Thursday voted to confirm President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the independent federal agency in charge of operating various state-funded media outlets. The yeas were 53 and the nays were 38.

The chamber had shelved a vote to confirm Michael Pack, a conservative filmmaker and close ally of former presidential advisor Steve Bannon, at the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) after his nomination in June of 2018. It was revealed that Pack was under investigation for allegedly using funds from his nonprofit organization, Public Media Lab, to benefit private production company, Manifold Productions. That investigation is ongoing.

At least one Republican lawmaker has defended Pack as a “patriot” and called the investigation of him political. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine is a Democrat.

Formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the USAGM oversees one of the largest media networks in the world, including Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

Records reviewed by CNBC last year showed that Pack had funneled “at least $1.6 million in donations” from his non-profit directly into the coffers of his production company.

“Since 2011, Pack’s nonprofit, the Public Media Lab, has listed only Manifold as the benefactor of these donations and consistently describes the purpose of the grant as ‘for the production of educational films.’ That includes the latest filing from 2017, when the group wrote a $300,000 check to Manifold,” CNBC reported last year.

“That year, Public Media Lab received $900,000 in contributions. The nonprofit’s mission statement focuses on receiving and awarding grants that will develop and support educational documentary films and filmmakers. Pack is listed as the principal officer and director of the nonprofit. The phone number listed on the disclosure is identical to the one listed on Manifold Productions’ website. It’s unclear what happened after Manifold’s company received the money. The firm did not return multiple requests for comment.”

Pack’s nomination had been inert for years until last month when Trump “singled out Mr. Pack’s nomination as part of a tirade about the Senate’s failure to confirm his nominees,” and “fumed about Democratic opposition to his chosen candidates and threatened to use a never-before-used presidential power to adjourn Congress himself so he could unilaterally install them,” according to the New York Times.

Also last month, Trump falsely accused the Voice of America of promulgating Chinese propaganda in covering the ongoing global pandemic. Pack will serve a three-year term as CEO of the USAGM.

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.