(Bloomberg) -- The head of the agency that oversees the Voice of America and other government media outlets won’t appear at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing later this week, defying a subpoena to testify about changes at the agency, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Michael Pack, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media, was supposed to appear Thursday before the committee voluntarily, but withdrew on Sept. 18. The panel’s chairman, Democrat Eliot Engel, said Pack failed to provide alternative dates or offer an acceptable excuse, and issued a subpoena to force his testimony.
Pack’s withdrawal also drew a strong statement from the committee’s ranking Republican, Representative Michael McCaul, 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 Democratically controlled committee.
McCaul said that since being confirmed by the Senate in June, Pack had placed critical national security programs “in jeopardy” and that the CEO “needs to come before this committee and explain those actions.”
Representatives of the agency didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The focus of McCaul’s ire is Pack’s actions related to 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 the law that established the OTF as an independent grantee of the agency.
In June, Pack dismissed the heads of four news outlets, including Radio Free Europe, as well as staff and governing board members at the OTF. A federal appeals court in Washington issued an injunction in July blocking the dismissals, as it determines whether the firing was lawful.
Pack’s nomination was controversial, 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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