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Robin Groulx / Axios

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai found himself answering for President Trump's media bashing at a Wednesday Senate hearing, less than 24 hours after the president renominated him as the top regulator.

The top line: The chairman wouldn't say directly whether he agreed with President Trump's statements that certain media outlets are the "enemy of the American people" because he didn't want to "wade into the larger political debate." He did, however, express support for the First Amendment. He responded similarly when asked about White House adviser Steve Bannon's declaration that the media should "keep its mouth shut." Pai said that he had "not made comments like that."

The details: Pai also said he hasn't spoken with anyone in the administration about AT&T's proposed $85 billion purchase of Time Warner, which the president has criticized. He also generally reiterated that the FCC would act independently of the White House.

Why it matters: The exchange underscores how Trump's continued attacks on the media raise questions for Pai. Telecom giants regulated by the FCC have expanded their push into news content, from the AT&T deal to Comcast's investment in multiple digital media outlets to Verizon's purchase of Huffington Post owner Aol.

Note: Comcast's NBC is an investor in Axios and Andy Lack is a member of the Axios board.

Go deeper

Toyota to build $1.3 billion U.S. battery plant in North Carolina

The all-electric Toyota bZ4X, the company's first battery-electric vehicle, at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, California on Nov. 17. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

Toyota announced Monday it's investing $1.3 billion to construct an electric vehicle battery "megasite" near Greensboro, North Carolina, set to open in 2025.

Why it matters: Toyota's Prius hybrid won environmental plaudits when it launched in 1997, but it has since lost ground to electric vehicle world leader Tesla, per Axios' Joann Muller. This battery plant will be the first to produce automotive batteries for Toyota in North America.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.