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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A bipartisan group of Senators on Wednesday wrote a letter to Michael Pack, the newly-confirmed CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), that they plan to review the agency's funding, after Pack abruptly fired the heads of five organizations funded by USAGM.

Why it matters: The sudden dismissal of all five heads last week prompted concerns amongst the senators about Pack's leadership and the future of the agency, which has aimed to promote American democratic values through unbiased journalism abroad.

Details: The letter was co-signed by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins and Jerry Moran and Democratic Sens. Patrick Leahy, Richard Durbin and Chris Van Hollen, signaling that the concern over Pack's leadership is bipartisan.

  • "The termination of qualified, expert staff and network heads for no specific reason as well as the removal of their boards raises questions about the preservation of these entities and their ability to implement their statutory missions now and in the future," the letter said.
  • The senators also note concern that the dismissals occurred without the consultation of Congress, which approves the more than $800 million USAGM annual budget.
  • “Given the bipartisan and bicameral concern with recent events, we intend to do a thorough review of USAGM’s funding,” the letter said.

The big picture: Pack says he has legal authority to remove the organizations' leaders, but the senators contend that the dismissals raise questions about his intentions.

  • “I believe when the CEO position was created, it explicitly addressed these things and wanted the CEO to have this power,” he said in an interview with The Washington Times. “If it were illegal, needless to say, I wouldn’t have done it, and if my legal counselor told me it was illegal, I wouldn’t do it.”
  • Pack recently announced new interim heads of the five agencies, all of which are career staffers.

Yes, but: While the senators dispute Pack's actions, others argue that Pack acted illegally with some of the firings.

  • Last week, a group of former USAGM leaders filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Open Technology Fund, an independent grantee of the USAGM, alleging that dismissals within their organization were illegal.

Go deeper: VOA journalists fight claims that it is Trump propaganda

Go deeper

Scoop: Open Technology Fund asks Inspector General to investigate

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Open Technology Fund is requesting that the U.S. Office of the Inspector General investigate its parent, the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), for breaching a firewall provision that is supposed to protect government-funded media agencies from political interference.

The big picture: The move is the latest in a very messy fight between the USAGM and one of the organizations it oversees. Earlier on Monday, journalists at another USAGM agency, Voice of America, wrote a letter to their interim CEO alleging that the new head of USAGM was endangering the agency's reporters.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Over 3,000 detained in protests across Russia demanding Navalny's release

Russian police officers beat protestesters at a rally against of jailing of oppositon leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Saturday. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Police in Russia on Saturday arrested more than 3,300 people as protesters nationwide demanded that opposition leader Alexey Navalny be released from jail.

Details: Demonstrations began in the eastern regions of Russia and spread west to more than 60 cities.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Arizona Republicans censure Cindy McCain and GOP governor

Combination images of Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for U.S.VETS/Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Arizona Republican Party members voted on Saturday to censure prominent GOP figures Cindy McCain, Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who've all faced clashes with former President Trump.

Why it matters: Although the resolution is symbolic, this move plus the re-election of the Trump-endorsed Kelli Ward as state GOP chair shows the strong hold the former president has on the party in Arizona, despite President Biden winning the state in the 2020 election.