Trump choice to lead US media agency subject of investigation

Daniel Flatley

President Donald Trump’s choice to lead the agency in charge of Voice of America is the subject of an investigation by the Washington, D.C. attorney general’s office, adding another hurdle to a nomination that’s been stalled for two years.

Michael Pack, a media executive close to one-time Trump adviser Steve Bannon, appeared to be on a path to have his nomination cleared by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, followed by a likely confirmation vote by the full chamber.

Michael Pack

But on Wednesday night the hearing was postponed. Then the D.C. attorney general’s office told the committee on Thursday that Pack was under investigation to determine whether he had misused funds from a nonprofit organization – the Public Media Lab – for his personal benefit, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said in a statement.

“Following his confirmation hearing in September 2019, a committee review of public records revealed that the Public Media Lab received several millions of dollars in grants and transferred those funds exclusively to Mr. Pack’s for-profit film production company,” according to Menendez, the panel’s top Democrat.

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine’s spokesman, David Mayorga, confirmed the investigation but declined to comment further. Calls to Pack’s company, Manifold Productions, weren’t immediately returned. The White House declined to comment.

VOA Attacked

The delay in Pack’s confirmation to head the Broadcasting Board of Governors, as well as that of other nominees, triggered an angry response from Trump even before the latest development. He cited Pack at an April event where he called the VOA “disgusting toward our country” and threatened to try to force Congress to adjourn so he could make recess appointments without going through the confirmation process.

Conservatives, including Helle Dale at the Heritage Foundation, had complained that Voice of America and its parent, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, was run by Obama administration holdovers and had tilted its reporting against Trump.

Trump nominated Pack in June 2018 to lead the Agency for Global Media, but the nomination has been stalled over concerns about the issues that the attorney general is now investigating.

Menendez said the D.C. attorney general’s office is requesting documents from the committee. The senator also said Pack had refused to provide the committee with documents related to the matter.

Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

“Chairman Risch never should have put Mr. Pack up for a committee vote in light of Mr. Pack’s refusal to come clean with the Senate on his vetting issues,” Menendez said in the statement.