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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 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

5 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.