Profiles of the people who make or influence communications policy.

FCC Seeks Nominations for Membership on Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking nominations for membership on, and a Chairperson for, the Advisory Committee on Diversity and Digital Empowerment (the Committee). The FCC intends to establish the Committee for a period of two (2) years, with an expected starting date in the fall of 2017.

The Committee’s mission will be to provide recommendations to the FCC on how to empower disadvantaged communities and accelerate the entry of small businesses, including those owned by women and minorities, into the media, digital news and information, and audio and video programming industries, including as owners, suppliers, and employees. It will also provide recommendations to the Commission on how to ensure that disadvantaged communities are not denied the wide range of opportunities made possible by next-generation networks. This Committee is intended to provide an effective means for stakeholders with interests in these areas to exchange ideas and develop recommendations to the Commission on media ownership and procurement opportunities, empowering communities in order to spur educational, economic, and civic development, and consumer access to digital technologies. The Committee’s work is intended to enhance the Commission’s ability to carry out its statutory responsibility to promote policies favoring diversity of media voices, localism, vigorous economic competition, technological advancement, and promotion of the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

Nominations for membership to the Committee should be submitted to the FCC no later than 11:59 PM EST, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

Secretary of Commerce Announces Interim Leadership for US Patent and Trademark Office

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has named US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Associate Solicitor Joseph Matal to perform the functions and duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. The position is effective June 7, 2017 and follows the resignation of Michelle K. Lee.

Matal will serve in this role during the nomination and confirmation process for a new director. As an Associate Solicitor in the USPTO’s Office of Solicitor, Matal has briefed and argued appeals of patent and trademark decisions before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the US District Court, and assisted in the development of legal positions taken by the US Solicitor General in patent and copyright cases before the US Supreme Court. Matal recently served as acting Chief of Staff for the agency, and has advised the director on legislative matters. Matal previously served as the General Counsel of the Judiciary Committee for former Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and as a Judiciary Committee Counsel to former Sen Jon Kyl (R-AZ). In that role, he was the principal staff drafter and negotiator of legislation that became the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, the first comprehensive patent law overhaul since 1952. Matal has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, and a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Threatens to Subpoena Comey

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is opening the door to summoning James Comey to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee after the former FBI director declined an invitation. "Under our rules on our committee, if Sen [Dianne] Feinstein [D-CA] would agree to subpoena I would," said Chairman Grassley. Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 7, making his first public comments since he was fired by President Donald Trump in May. Sen Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the intelligence panel questioning the ousted FBI chief, said that he anticipated June 7's hearing will be the only time Comey appears before Congress. But members of the Judiciary Committee are continuing to demand that Comey also come before their panel, which has oversight of the FBI.

White House Staff, Congress Blindsided by FBI Pick Announcement

Apparently, President Donald Trump’s top communications staff, and much of his senior White House team, did not know the president was going to make the official announcement for nominating James Comey’s successor early on June 7 via a single tweet. Several observers noted that President Trump’s Christopher Wray announcement did not arrive with any fact sheet or official press release, as would be expected with news of this weight. And it’s just the latest instance of President Trump’s senior staffers, particularly his communications and press shop, being cut out of the loop, undermined, and frazzled by their unpredictable boss and his compulsive tweeting habit.

Frontier laid off WV state Senate president after broadband vote it didn’t like

Broadband provider Frontier Communications recently laid off the West Virginia state Senate president after a vote the company didn't like—and yes, you read that correctly. West Virginia does not have a full-time legislature, and state lawmakers can supplement their part-time government salaries ($20,000 a year, according to BallotPedia) with jobs in the private sector. West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson County) was also a sales manager for Frontier. But after six years with the company, Frontier terminated his employment on May 26. The dismissal came just weeks after Carmichael voted for a broadband infrastructure bill that was designed to bring faster speeds, lower prices, and more competition to Internet customers. It was described as a layoff in local press reports, but Carmichael said in multiple interviews that he believes the Senate vote led to his newfound unemployment.

Chairman Pai Announces Sanford Williams To Serve As Director Of Communications Business Opportunities Team

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the agency has chosen Sanford Williams to serve as director of the FCC’s Office of Communications Business Opportunities, continuing the work he has been doing as acting director. Williams has worked in various roles at the Federal Communications Commission since 1999. Williams also worked as an attorney for Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice, and taught at Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia. Williams attended Cornell University where he earned an undergraduate degree in operations research & industrial engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Johnson School of Management. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where he was a member of the Virginia Law Review.

President Trump Picks Christopher Wray to Be FBI Director

President Donald Trump said that he had selected the former federal prosecutor Christopher Wray, now a Washington (DC)-based criminal defense lawyer who recently represented Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, to be his new FBI director. The president revealed his decision in a morning tweet. His announcement came a day before the former FBI director James B. Comey was to testify about President Trump’s attempts to get him to end the bureau’s investigation into his former national security adviser’s contacts with Russia.

Wray is a safe, mainstream pick from a president who at one point was considering politicians for a job that has historically been kept outside of politics. Wray, a former assistant attorney general overseeing the criminal division under President George W. Bush, is likely to allay the fears of FBI agents who worried that President Trump would try to weaken or politicize the FBI. Wray, two administration officials said, is a hybrid pick for President Trump: He is a seasoned criminal lawyer who bonded with Christie when both were young attorneys in the Justice Department, and a highly regarded criminal defense lawyer who represented Christie in the aftermath of the scandal over traffic jams that rocked his governorship.

Top intelligence official told associates President Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey on FBI Russia probe

The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Donald Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials. On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, President Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates.

Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether President Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race. After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as President Trump had suggested would be inappropriate, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters. The events involving Coats show the president went further than just asking intelligence officials to deny publicly the existence of any evidence showing collusion during the 2016 election. The interaction with Coats indicates that President Trump aimed to enlist top officials to have Comey curtail the bureau’s probe.

In Political Media First, President Trump Releases Comey Attack Ad

In what appears to be a political media first, a Super Pac controlled by President Donald Trump has released an ad attacking the character of a witness in advance of a highly anticipated Senate hearing. The ad, entitled “Showboat,” was released June 6 by President Trump’s Great America Alliance and attacks the character of former FBI Director James Comey, who is scheduled to speak publicly June 8 during a Senate hearing. The spot, which will air on national TV outlets during the hearing, reportedly has a $400,000 media budget. Citing alt right news reports such as Breitbart News, American Spectator and AlternNet, the campaign attacks Comey as putting “politics over protecting America” and concludes with the tagline: “Just another DC insider in it for himself.”

The US government’s patent chief has resigned

Apparently, the leader of the US government’s leading patent agency, Michelle Lee, has unexpectedly resigned from her post. Lee, a former lawyer for Google, took over the US Patent and Trademark Office during the Obama Administration, and many in the tech industry — which publicly supported her work — believed that President Donald Trump would renominate her to the critical government post. But Lee instead informed the Commerce Department that she would be stepping down from the position.

It is unclear if Lee is leaving government entirely or headed to another position. Still, it could amount to a major blow for the tech industry. In April, a series of companies and their lobbying organizations — including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Samsung and others — publicly defended Lee’s tenure and asked President Trump to renominate her for the agency.