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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

Activision Blizzard employees say HR department failed them

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Following a lawsuit filed by California against Activision Blizzard, allegations of harassment, misconduct, and assault continue to emerge from people who point to the company's HR department as being part of the larger problem.

Why it matters: Sources say the company's culture favors a clan mentality and functioned under a broken HR department that undermined and discounted victims' experiences, and did not protect their identities.

Andrew Cuomo refuses to resign: "I never touched anyone inappropriately"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday that he will not resign from his post, despite an independent investigation finding that he sexually harassed multiple women in violation of federal and state law.

Why it matters: Cuomo had previously urged those calling for his resignation — including nearly every prominent New York Democrat — to wait for the results of the investigation overseen by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The findings were damning, but Cuomo said he is not going anywhere.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
3 hours ago - Science

Boeing is getting its do-over

Boeing's Starliner awaits its launch atop an Atlas V rocket. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Boeing is set to launch a redo of an uncrewed test of its Starliner spacecraft — designed to one day carry astronauts — to the International Space Station this week.

Why it matters: This is a high-stakes test for Boeing, which failed to get its Starliner to the station during its first uncrewed test flight in December 2019.