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Menendez Statement on Michael Pack’s Hollowing Out of USAGM

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement after Michael Pack, President Trump’s pick to head the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), abruptly fired all of the network heads and their corporate boards on his first week at the Agency:

“As feared, Michael Pack has confirmed he is on a political mission to destroy the USAGM’s independence and undermine its historic role. The wholesale firing of the Agency’s network heads, and disbanding of corporate boards to install President Trump’s political allies is an egregious breach of this organization’s history and mission from which it may never recover.  This latest attack is sadly the latest – but not the last – in the Trump Administration’s efforts to transform U.S. institutions rooted in the principles of democracy into tools for the President’s own personal agenda.

“Two years ago, I introduced the U.S. Agency for Global Media Reform Act, which, among other things, would have put guardrails in place to protect the integrity of the networks and grantees from political interference. Today, we are forced to pay the cost of Senate Republicans’ refusal to allow a vote on that commonsense piece of legislation. Instead, Republican’s forcefully confirmed Michael Pack as CEO, despite the glaring red flags and our repeated objections given Mr. Pack’s potential abuse of his non-profit organization, false statements to the IRS, and blatant lack of transparency with the Foreign Relations Committee.

“Indeed, the D.C. Attorney General opened an investigation into Mr. Pack’s nonprofit for potentially making unlawful expenditures and improperly benefiting from them. During his nomination process, Mr. Pack demonstrated he lacked the minimum ethical characteristics to deserve a position of such public trust. We have now seen, in just his first week on the job, the long-term consequences of Republican’s rubber-stamping of unqualified nominees simply to appease Donald Trump. 

“As we assess the damage being caused by Mr. Pack’s hollowing of the USAGM, I will focus on partnering with colleagues in Congress who still believe in the integrity of the USAGM’s work. I am committed to use the power of my voice and strength of my office to evaluate the legality of this action and ensure that the Agency is able to continue its critical mission.”

The U.S. Agency for Global Media, formerly the Broadcasting Board of Governors, has a mission to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. Its grantees and networks including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Voice of America and Radio and TV Marti bring news and information to societies where free press is banned or not fully operational.

Ranking Member Menendez led the fight in Congress in raising serious and outstanding problems regarding inappropriate and potentially unlawful activity involving Michael Pack’s business dealings, which the District of Columbia’s Attorney General is currently investigating.