UPDATE, 3 PM PT, May 15: President Donald Trump was asked whether he is standing by his nominee to lead the agency that oversees the Voice of America, Michael Pack, after the D.C. attorney general confirmed that it was investigating Pack’s nonprofit.
“I don’t know what happened,” Trump told reporters at a Rose Garden event on Friday. “I know that Voice of America is run in a terrible manner. Terrible. They’re not the voice of America, they’re the opposite of the voice of America.”
Trump had pressed the Senate to move Pack’s nomination as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, after it has been stalled for almost two years. But a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday, when Pack’s nomination was to be taken up for a vote, was postponed. Later in the day, the office of D.C. attorney general Karl Racine confirmed that it was investigating claims that Pack directed money from his nonprofit to his production company.
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PREVIOUSLY, 4:10 PM PT, MAY 14: The District of Columbia’s attorney general is investigating a non profit run by Michael Pack, President Donald Trump’s choice to run the agency that oversees Voice of America.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Menendez, said on Thursday that the investigation centers on whether Pack’s use of money from his nonprofit, the Public Media Lab, “was unlawful and whether he improperly used those funds to benefit himself.” A spokesperson for D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine confirmed the investigation but declined to further comment.
The White House did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did a spokesperson for the committee’s chair, Sen. James Risch (R-ID). Pack did not respond to a request placed to his production company, Manifold Productions.
“Taking note of what we now know—that there is an active OAG investigation into Mr. Pack’s business dealings—I urge Chairman Risch to hit pause on this nomination,” Menendez said in a statement. “I plan to do everything in my power to cooperate with this critical law enforcement request, and I urge Chairman Risch to do the same.”
The concerns over Pack’s nonprofit and other issues were first disclosed in a CNBC story last year that ran shortly after his confirmation hearing in September. Menendez said that 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.”
In a letter to Risch last month, Menendez and other Senate Democrats wrote that they still had concerns about issues surrounding his taxes and other background concerns and that he had “refused to provide the Committee with information necessary to resolve these matters.”
Pack’s nomination was to come before the Foreign Relations committee on Thursday morning, but it was postponed after members requested holds on various agenda items. Menendez and other Democrats also had raised objections to the scheduling.
Pack is being nominated to a post that oversees a handful of U.S. government-backed international media outlets, the largest of which is Voice of America. Pack’s nomination has lingered since 2018, but it has taken on a higher profile since Trump complained at a press briefing last month that Democrats were stalling it in the midst of a global pandemic. The president and the White House also accused Voice of America of amplifying Chinese propaganda, a claim that VOA officials vigorously dispute.
Pack is somewhat of a rarity in the documentary film world — a conservative director — and even participated in an event at AFI Docs in 2017 called Look to the Right. His most recent project, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words, is running on PBS stations this month. He’s also collaborated on projects with Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist who also led Breitbart.com.
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