President Donald Trump’s pick to be the CEO of a federal media agency is moving ahead with installing loyal administration officials to key leadership roles.
The newly appointed chief of staff to the U.S. Agency for Global Media [USAGM], once known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, sent out a memo to staff about the changes that are being made. The new chief is Emily Newman, who was an advisor to the Department of Homeland Security prior to becoming a leader within USAGM, her financial disclosure report shows.
Beyond adding new leaders to the agency, Pack on Wednesday terminated the membership of longtime board members that have been part of USAGM entities for years, including those on the boards of Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and the Open Technology Fund.
“I have terminated your membership on the board, effective immediately,” Pack said in emails reviewed by CNBC.
Newman said in the memo, which was first reviewed by CNBC, that the changes were being directed by Pack himself and that certain personnel must report to their new department leaders. She also appeared to put in a warning to members of the staff about communicating with anyone outside the agency.
“Until further notice, no actions are to be taken, and no external communications are to be made, without explicit approval from the Chief Operating Officer; Vice President for Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management; Deputy Chief of Staff; or Chief of Staff,” the memo reads.
The decision to add leaders that, based on their track record, have had a staunch loyalty to Trump, comes after Democrats have voiced concern that Pack could be on on the brink of moving ahead with purging the staff. Pack, a conservative documentary filmmaker with ties to former White House chief strategists Steve Bannon, wrote a memo to the staff on Wednesday, introducing himself and laying out three objectives, including raise morale at the agency.
“USAGM consistently ranks at the bottom in surveys of mid-sized Agencies in terms of morale and job satisfaction. I will make it a priority to improve morale here,” Pack said at the time. USAGM oversees the Voice of America, a news network that has been publicly under siege by Trump and his allies. Two network officials have already resigned since Pack was confirmed by the U.S. Senate earlier this month. Meanwhile, a nonprofit run by Pack is under investigation by the Washington, D.C., attorney general for potential self-dealing.
Those listed as new department heads within the organization include Michael Williams, who first worked at the Office of Management and Budget and later became a Deputy Assistant to the President. He also had a stint as general counsel for the American Suppressor Association, a lobbying group that pushes states to ease restrictions on gun suppressors, according to their website. Williams will be the vice president for legal, compliance and risk management, the memo says.
Williams also once worked on Trump’s inaugural committee as an associate general counsel and the president’s 2016 campaign as director of election day operations, his financial disclosure report says.
The new director of public affairs is Jonathan Bronitsky, who once worked at the Office of Personnel Management, was a chief speechwriter at the U.S. Department of Justice and held a similar role at the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that was once led by Pack himself.
Andre Mendes will be USAGM’s new chief operating officer. He was previously employed by the U.S. Department of Commerce but, prior to that, had executive leadership roles at the federal media organization.
When reached for comment, Bronitsky said he would work to confirm the roles and past work history of those mentioned in this story. He did not call back before publication. A White House spokesperson also did not return requests for comment.
One of the Democrats that have sounded the alarm about a potential firing spree at USAGM is Rep. Elliot Engel, (D-NY), the Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
“I have learned that Michael Pack, the new CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, intends to force out a number of the agency’s career senior leadership tomorrow morning,” Engel said in a recent statement. “My fear is that USAGM’s role as an unbiased news organization is in jeopardy under his leadership. USAGM’s mission is ‘to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy’—not to be a mouthpiece for the President in the run up to an election.”
Copy of the memo:
Effective immediately, prior delegations of CEO authority have been revoked and re-delegated to the following individuals, until further notice:
Effective immediately, the following will report to the USAGM Chief Operating Officer, Andre Mendes:
o Deputy Director for Operations
o Chief Financial Officer
o Chief Strategy Officer
o Director of Technology, Services and Innovation
Effective immediately, the following will report to the USAGM Vice President for Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management, Michael Williams:
o General Counsel
o Executive Director
o Chief Risk Officer
Effective immediately, the following will report to the USAGM Principal Director of Public Affairs, Jonathan Bronitsky:
o Chief Global Communications Officer
o Director, Office of Policy
Effective immediately, the following will report to the Deputy Chief of Staff, Diane Cullo:
o Director of Management Services
o Acting Director of Congressional Affairs
Until further notice, no actions are to be taken, and no external communications are to be made, without explicit approval from the Chief Operating Officer; Vice President for Legal, Compliance, and Risk Management; Deputy Chief of Staff; or Chief of Staff. Meetings will be scheduled this week to include discussion of delegations and functions.