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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."

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February
  2. Vaccines: Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker