Watchdog: FCC chief did not mislead lawmakers over failed Sinclair-Tribune merger

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai did not mislead lawmakers about a conversation with the White House counsel over the proposed Sinclair Broadcast Group and Tribune Media merger, the agency's watchdog said Monday.

The Office of Inspector General, which conducted the investigation, said in a statement that its investigation found no evidence that Pai acted improperly by not disclosing the call with former White House counsel Don McGahn during a July hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneOvernight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group Overnight Energy: Bernhardt confirmed as Interior chief | Dems probing if EPA officials broke ethics rules | Senators offer bipartisan carbon capture bill MORE (D-N.J.) previously called on the inspector general to open the investigation, asking the office to look into whether Pai made “material omissions and failed to disclose” the phone call.

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Pallone had asked Pai during the July hearing if he would "commit to disclosing" any communications he had with the White House about the proposed merger between Sinclair and Tribune.

Pai revealed to the Senate in August that McGahn had asked him about the status of the merger before the July hearing. He said McGahn had asked about the decision but had not sought to influence it.

The watchdog found Pai had not misled lawmakers at the House hearing and had only promised to disclose discussions per the agency's rules.

"We are limited in what information we can receive and what we can put on the record," Pai told Pallone at the hearing. "But consistent with our restricted ex parte rules, we would be happy to accommodate to the extent we can."

Pai in July said that he had serious concerns about the proposed Sinclair-Tribune merger, effectively killing the deal. In August, Tribune backed out of the deal and sued Sinclair.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE has been a vocal supporter of Sinclair, a conservative broadcasting group that has pushed positive media coverage of his administration.  

FCC spokesman Brian Hart said in a statement Monday hailed the inspector general's findings.

"We are pleased that the Office of Inspector General has confirmed for a second time that there were no improper actions taken during the Sinclair-Tribune review process and that the investigation has concluded,” Hart said.

An earlier investigation had cleared Pai of allegations that he showed "favoritism" toward the deal.