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McConnell sets vote for Trump media agency pick, who has ties to Steve Bannon

Michael Pack is also under active investigation by D.C. attorney general for alleged self-dealing, self-enrichment

President Donald Trump, flanked by Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the cameras as he departs the Senate Republicans policy lunch  in May.
President Donald Trump, flanked by Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks to the cameras as he departs the Senate Republicans policy lunch in May. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Corrected, 6:20 p.m. | The Senate on Thursday will consider the nomination of conservative filmmaker Michael Pack, who has collaborated with former Breitbart News head Steve Bannon and is being actively investigated by the attorney general for the District of Columbia for alleged self-dealing and self-enrichment.

Pack, whose nomination has been pending for several years, was tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The agency has an annual budget of roughly $1 billion and includes U.S. taxpayer-funded news outlets Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

[Senate Foreign Relations advances controversial Trump nominee in party-line vote]

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a May party-line 12-10 vote, advanced Pack’s nomination after a heated exchange between the panel’s Republicans and Democrats about breaking committee tradition by considering a nominee who is under an active criminal investigation.

If confirmed Thursday afternoon, Pack will serve a three-year term as CEO of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Pack has experience working at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Worldnet, which was later merged with Voice of America. He worked with Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, on multiple film projects.

Bannon called VOA “a rotten fish from top to bottom” in the Los Angeles Times and suggested it is “totally controlled by the deep-state apparatus.”

Critics warn that installing Pack as the agency’s head is an attempt to get more favorable coverage of the Trump administration. The president has been a vocal critic of the editorially independent VOA, calling the news agency’s coverage “disgusting. What — things they say are disgusting toward our country.”

Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Jeff Merkley of Oregon took to the floor Wednesday to criticize Pack’s nomination, which The New York Times reports has been moved along after Republican leaders began getting pressure from the White House.

Pack, who appeared twice in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wasn’t candid about his IRS tax filings or in his official responses to the panel as part of his confirmation process, Merkley said. He warned that allowing a nominee to get confirmed without providing requested materials is a failure of “our constitutional responsibility to examine the qualifications of the individual.”

Merkley offered a unanimous consent request to set aside Pack’s nomination until requested documents not provided to the committee are delivered.

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, objected, calling it “a pure unadulterated exercise in politics,” and said Pack was a “patriot.” He also suggested the criminal investigation into Pack’s misconduct is being conducted by a “partisan agency.”

Note: This report was corrected to clarify Michael Pack’s work experience. The headline was corrected to reflect his agency role.

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