This morning, Hunter Walker and veteran investigative journalist Michael Isikoff dropped a bombshell story about the FBI’s investigation into international news organization Sputnik’s Kremlin ties.
It appears that the company, owned by “Putin’s personal propagandist,” Rossiya Segodnya, has violated FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act), first implemented in 1938 to defend against Nazi propaganda, by not handing over to the U.S. government “detailed reports with the Justice Department on their funding and operations.”
The FBI has been questioning Andrew Feinberg, who was fired for pushing back against the company policy to cover pro-Trump stories, as well as stories hurtful to Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic opponent in the 2016 presidential election.
According to the Yahoo article, “Feinberg said the interview was focused on Sputnik’s ‘internal structure, editorial processes and funding.'”
As part of the probe, Yahoo News has learned, the bureau has obtained a thumb drive containing thousands of internal Sputnik emails and documents — material that could potentially help prosecutors build a case that the news agency played a role in the Russian government ‘influence campaign’ that was waged during last year’s presidential election and, in the view of U.S. intelligence officials, is still ongoing.
According to expert Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent and now an associate dean of Yale Law School, “this tells me they have good information and intelligence that these organizations have been acting on behalf of the Kremlin and that there’s a direct line between them and the [Russian influence operations] that are a significant threat to our democracy.”
Harvey and Isikoff go on to write:
The thumb drive of emails and other documents that Feinberg turned over to the FBI contains messages that could shed light on Sputnik’s funding, its operations in Washington and how it makes editorial decisions. It includes documents Feinberg submitted on behalf of Sputnik to obtain congressional press credentials in which he confirmed that the Russian government is the company’s main funding source.
A January U.S. intelligence report details how Sputnik and RT (Russia Today) serve as a “platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences.”
According to Feinberg, his senior editors “would say, ‘Moscow wants this or Moscow wants that.’”
Corroborating Feinberg’s allegations, another former Sputnik journalist, Joseph John Fionda, said:
[H]is last straw with Sputnik came on Oct. 19, 2015, after excerpts of private emails from then-CIA Director John Brennan were published by a hacker on Twitter. He claimed Gavasheli, Sputnik’s U.S. editor in chief, asked him to ‘obtain the CIA Director’s stolen emails’ from the hacker.
“I refused because I believed this was a solicitation to espionage,” Fionda wrote.
Fionda alleges he was fired as a result of that altercation.
To make matters worse, Sputnik has recently expanded, acquiring a D.C. radio station, in order to air talk shows featuring Breitbart “reporters” and Trump supporters.
This all comes as Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller investigates the Trump campaigns alleged collusion with Russia in the 2016 presidential election.
As Sputnik attempts to broaden their propaganda’s reach into the American psyche, the FBI’s investigation could possibly save the day, tying the Russian propaganda arm to the Trump campaign aides who also did not register as Foreign Agents while doing the dirty work of hostile foreign powers.
Lucia Brawley is a Harvard- and Yale-educated writer, producer, actor, and political organizer. She runs the progressive political Facebook group Consenting to Lead. To learn more, please go to luciabrawley.com.