(Bloomberg) — The chief of the agency that oversees the Voice of America and other media organizations told the chairman of a congressional committee that subpoenaed him that he couldn’t appear because of a scheduling conflict.
Michael Pack, who earlier this year took charge of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, had angered both Democrats and Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee when he defied the subpoena to testify about changes at the agency.
In a letter to the panel’s chairman, Eliot Engel, on Wednesday, Pack said he was “disappointed to receive your subpoena” and “eager to testify.” He complained in the letter that the panel’s staff had refused to accept other dates.
“As we have repeatedly explained to the committee, USAGM has become preoccupied with a series of pressing and complex matters necessary to correct over a decade of systemic security failures. In view of these genuine and urgent conflicts, we requested a brief adjournment so that I may appear a few weeks later.”
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He added that he “could not provide complete information concerning the pressing internal matters.”
He was originally scheduled to appear voluntarily on Thursday, and the committee issued the subpoena last week after he withdrew.
Engel, a New York Democrat, said Tuesday that it was Pack who had failed to provide alternative dates or offer an acceptable excuse.
Pack’s withdrawal also drew a strong statement from the committee’s ranking Republican, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas, who called for Pack to testify. In a sharply divided Congress, the bipartisan response was unusual, particularly with regard to pressing a Trump nominee to appear before a committee controlled by Democrats.
McCaul said that since being confirmed by the Senate in June, Pack had placed critical national security programs “in jeopardy” and that he “needs to come before this committee and explain those actions.”
In June, Pack dismissed the heads of four news organizations, including Radio Free Europe, as well as staff and governing board members at the Open Technology Fund, or OTF, an organization that promotes internet freedom abroad and receives grant money from the Agency for Global Media. McCaul was one of the lead authors of a measure that would establish the OTF as an independent grantee of the agency.
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Pack’s nomination by President Donald Trump drew heated opposition from Senate Democrats, both for his association with former Trump campaign and White House adviser Steve Bannon, but also over unresolved questions about his business dealings while running an nonprofit media organization called the Public Media Lab. The attorney general of the District of Columbia is investigating the organization for unlawful use of funds.
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