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Federal Communications Commission Chairman. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The White House's top lawyer made contact with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to inquire about its review of the purchase of Tribune Media stations by the conservative broadcaster Sinclair, Pai told a Senate committee on Thursday.

Why it matters: The FCC — and merger reviews generally — are supposed to be independent from the White House. Pai explained, "no one has called from the White House to express a view. We received one status inquiry."

The details: Pai said he spoke with McGahn on July 16 or July 17. On July 16, Pai expressed "serious concerns" about the deal and moved to send parts of the transaction to an administrative law judge in a move that can prove fatal for a merger. Tribune has since dropped out of the deal and is suing Sinclair.

  • "He saw something in the news and wanted to know what our decision was — or what the [proposed] action was," Pai said. "He just wanted to know what it was."
  • McGahn made the call after the chairman had gone public with his concerns, according to an FCC spokesperson.

President Trump criticized Pai over his decision on the deal in a tweet on July 24.

  • "So sad and unfair that the FCC wouldn’t approve the Sinclair Broadcast merger with Tribune," Trump said. "This would have been a great and much needed Conservative voice for and of the People."

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Kellyanne Conway addresses the 2020 Republican National Convention. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Kellyanne Conway has seen power exercised as a pollster, campaign manager and senior counselor to President Trump. Now that his term in office has concluded, she shared her thoughts with Axios.

Why it matters: If there's a currency in this town, it's power, so we've asked several former Washington power brokers to share their best advice as a new administration and new Congress settle in.

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GOP holdouts press on with plans to crush Cheney

Screenshot of emails to a member of Congress from individuals who signed an Americans for Limited Government petition against Rep. Liz Cheney. Photo obtained by Axios

Pro-Trump holdouts in the House are forging ahead with an uphill campaign to oust Rep. Liz Cheney as head of the chamber's Republican caucus even though Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told them to back down.

Why it matters: What happens next will be a test of McCarthy's party control and the sincerity of his opposition to the movement. Cheney (R-Wyo.) is seen as a potential leadership rival to the California Republican.

Democrats aim to punish House GOP for Capitol riot

Speaker Nancy Pelosi passes through a newly installed metal detector at the House floor entrance Thursday. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Democrats plan to take advantage of corporate efforts to cut funding for Republicans who opposed certifying the 2020 election results, with a plan to target vulnerable members in the pivotal 2022 midterms for their role in the Jan. 6 violence.

Why it matters: It's unclear whether the Democrats' strategy will manifest itself in ads or earned media in the targeted races or just be a stunt to raise money for themselves. But the Capitol violence will be central to the party's messaging as it seeks to maintain its narrow majorities in Congress.