ICYMI: McCaul Opening Statement at Hearing on Management of the United States Agency for Global MediaBlog
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the following opening statement at today’s full committee hearing on decisions that have been made at the United States Agency for Global Media under CEO Michael Pack’s leadership.
-Opening Remarks as Delivered-
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to each of the witnesses who are appearing before us here today.
“The U.S. Agency for Global Media’s mission is to further press and internet freedom around the world. Recently, I and many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, have grown very concerned the agency’s mission is being undermined from the top.
“Most problematic to me has been what I can only characterize as the impoundment of funds meant for the Open Technology Fund.
“OTF was stood up as an independent grantee last year—in a bipartisan manner by Congress.
“Yet, despite a track record of success in providing internet access and other vital support to those in China, Iran, Russia, and other authoritarian states, CEO Pack has ignored the will of Congress and withheld millions of dollars in funding from OTF.
“This is not a typical DC policy discussion. I believe that his actions damaged support during the height of unrest in Hong Kong, and they are continuing to do so today in Belarus.
“Their tragic lack of support to freedom and democracy movements is also regrettable because, in my judgment, it directly undermines key priorities of this administration that I have discussed at the very top levels.
“That, unfortunately, isn’t the only concerning action. In sum, USAGM has not been responsive to Congress in many cases:
“We have asked the agency for their strategic response to the situation in Belarus, but have received no response.
“Our office inquired about the return of Radio Free Europe to Hungary, but received no response.
“Also, after most of the front office was placed on administrative leave, we simply asked for the names of those people who are heading key offices at USAGM – but, like so many of our other questions, this too was met with silence.
“We are a separate and equal branch of government, and Mr. Chairman, this committee deserves the respect of a response.
“Make no mistake—I believe there is some reform that needs to be done at USAGM, and that should take place.
“And any questionable content – such as the video which aired on Voice of America that seemingly appeared to endorse Vice President Biden – that should also be thoroughly investigated.
“There is no place for this type of politics inside the USAGM.
“But I don’t think we should throw out the baby with the bath water here.
“I ask today – once again – for CEO Pack to release the funding approved by Congress under Article 1 of the Constitution and release the funding that was approved by Congress for OTF and to meaningfully engage with Congress to provide answers to the basic questions we must ask as part of our oversight duties.
“Unfortunately, as Mr. Pack has decided not to attend today’s hearing despite a subpoena from this committee and from Congress, I hope that today’s witnesses can provide us with details about what is going on at the USAGM in his absence.
“I believe that, Mr. Chairman, this technology is so important to countries like Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea to communicate within the country – inside and outside – and people in the country to communicate amongst themselves so they can be in a position to yield back from their oppressors.
“Without this important tool that Congress has authorized and funded, we will have a very difficult time in this mission for greater democracy and freedom throughout the world.
“With that, I yield back.”
-Questions as Delivered For the Witnesses-
“I’ve been heading this China task force up for the last six months.
“Voice of America took our Origins of COVID-19 Report – which was almost like an indictment of the Chinese Communist Party and the cover-up that took place – all based on truth. We translated that into Mandarin, we got it through into Mainland China, and the report went viral because the people of China need to know the truth about their government.
“This is a great example of what USAGM can do and how we can penetrate through their firewalls to talk to the people directly. It got the attention of President Xi’s spokesman. There was an hour-long CTGN – their propaganda television show – an hour-long special debunking the “McCaul Report.”
“I mean, this is one of the most valuable things we have [with] the State Department to talk directly to the people in China who are oppressed every day, to talk to the people in Iran who are oppressed every day, people in Russia, in North Korea.
“So I see great value in this, and I don’t want to see it destroyed or reduced by 80% because $20 million that Congress appropriated has essentially been impounded…
“…So I’d like to post my question actually to you, Mr. Turner, but also, if I could give Ambassador Crocker and Ambassador Kornbluh some time to talk about: what impact are the actions of Mr. Pack and this purging and I would say borderline actions in defiance of Congressional intent and appropriations? What impact is that having on our foreign policy?…
“…This undermines the very things we’re trying to achieve – the very goals Secretary Pompeo and I have talked about. I believe these actions undermine that.
“…And finally, Ambassador Crocker, you say our reputation for telling the truth has been a core element of our strength as our nation. Now it is in danger, putting at risk not only our national values but also our national security.
“Ambassador Crocker, I put great value in those words from probably the most esteemed ambassador the United States has ever had.
“So with that, Ambassador Crocker, I’d like for you and Ambassador Kornbluh to respond to that, and then, Mr. Turner, since you’re here in person, it would be nice to have your response.”
“Thank you, Ambassador, and thank you for your service. Now my time has expired. I would just ask that the witnesses – all of the witnesses appearing before the committee today – respond to my question in writing. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”