RT bucks DOJ request to register as a foreign agent

The Russian television network RT is resisting the U.S. government's request that its American arm register under the...

Posted: Dec 9, 2017 5:37 AM
Updated: Dec 9, 2017 5:37 AM

The Russian television network RT is resisting the U.S. government's request that its American arm register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

According to the network, the Department of Justice gave it an Oct. 17 deadline to register as a foreign agent. But according to publicly available DOJ filings, RT has not yet registered, and in a statement RT said it plans to fight back.

"Our legal team has been doing everything possible for RT to avoid having to register under FARA and the dialogue is ongoing. On their advice we are not discussing further details at this time," RT head of communications Anna Belkina said in a statement.

Though FARA experts say DOJ deadlines for FARA registrations are unusual, they can happen in instances where the DOJ does not feel that they will get voluntary compliance.

"The department takes a much more aggressive stance when they think voluntary compliance will not happen," said FARA expert Joshua Ian Rosenstein, a member of the law firm Sandler Reiff Lamb Rosenstein & Birkenstock.

FARA was originally created decades ago to prevent foreign propaganda swaying the American public. Companies or individuals considered to be working on behalf of a foreign government in the United States are required to disclose their funding and relationship with a foreign government or actor with the DOJ, which then publishes the information online. Registering under FARA does not prohibit a news outlet from operating and publishing. Other American-based companies that work with foreign media outlets, such as Japanese broadcaster NHK and Chinese newspaper The China Daily, are also registered under FARA, and those outlets continue their work.

RT did not respond to requests to share a copy of the letter it says it received from the DOJ in order to verify that the DOJ was demanding it register by a certain deadline. The DOJ has repeatedly declined to comment on the FARA request. Spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle told CNN in an email, "Our policy is not to comment on what entities may or may not be required to register under FARA."

There's no clear path to what happens next, FARA experts said. It's possible that the DOJ will just ask RT to register again, continuing the dialogue. It's also possible that it will start civil or criminal proceedings. In the meantime, RT could try to file an injunction to stop the government from forcing its hand.

FARA convictions are rare. According to the DOJ, there have only been seven FARA-related criminal cases in the past 50 years.

RT America was singled out in a January intelligence community report for the impact it may have had on the 2016 election. The report said RT "conducts strategic messaging for [the] Russian government" and "seeks to influence politics, [and] fuel discontent in the U.S." The report also mentioned Russian-government controlled website Sputnik as "another government-funded outlet producing pro-Kremlin radio and online content."

Federal investigators are also reportedly looking into whether Russian government-funded outlets such as RT and Sputnik were part of Russia's influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election. Yahoo News has separately reported that the FBI interviewed a former Sputnik correspondent about his work at the website.

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan claimed on a Russian talk show last month that the company's lawyers have said that its staff could be at risk of arrest if it did not register. That is technically possible, Rosenstein said, but unlikely.

"If you look at when they've done actual prosecution it tends to be very high-profile cases involving enemy regimes or foreign governments that are not particularly friendly in the U.S.," Rosenstein said. "With all the news around Russia it's not surprising this would've been the time this would come to light."

Daniel Pickard, a lawyer who specializes in FARA as a partner at the law firm Wiley Rein, noted that there can be criminal penalties for violations of FARA. Pickard indicated that he did not have any specific information in regard to the RT issue, but stated that people working for a foreign government that "intentionally and willfully" violates any provisions of the Act can be punished with fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for no more than five years, or both.

Pickard also indicated that persons who willfully make false statements or intentionally fail to provide material information in regard to registering under FARA can be subject to these same penalties. He indicated, however, that in most cases the Department of Justice has determined that an agent's failure to comply with FARA requirements is unintentional, and has permitted voluntary compliance rather than instituting criminal proceedings.

RT and Russia's leaders have blasted what they said is increased pressure on their outlets, claiming it flies in the face of U.S. values and promising retaliatory actions against American media in Russia. Last month several American government-backed media outlets in the country received letters from the Russian Justice Ministry warning that they were subject to certain restrictions.

On Wednesday, the independent Russian media outlet RBC reported that the Russian parliament's committee on state sovereignty is considering blacklisting at least five U.S.-based media organizations which it claims "interfere in Russia's domestic policy," including CNN and the American government funded Radio Liberty and Voice of America.

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia will act in a "tit-for-tat" way if any pressure is placed on the Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik in the United States.

Putin said Russia would react "quite fast" if it sees any action limiting their activities. Putin also aimed criticism at British and American media outlets. He suggested that they "directly influence domestic political processes in almost all countries."

Last week Belkina said RT was changing some billboards and bus shelter advertisements in the United States on the advice of its lawyers because the ads made tongue-in-cheek reference to U.S. intelligence reports and comments by Hillary Clinton suggesting RT tried to influence the election.

"Stuck in traffic? Lost an election? Blame it on us!" one of the ads read.

According to spokespeople for the D.C. Department of Transportation and for Clear Channel, which administers the advertisements, RT purchased 50 bus shelter ads in the Washington area for about a one-month period. Blue Line Media, which helps companies buy bus shelter ads, says rates for those ads in Washington cost between $2,000 to $3,500 for a 4-week period, which would suggest that RT paid between $100,000 to $175,000 for the ads, though often companies receive discounts based off of volume and other factors.

-- CNN's Mary Ilyushina and Laura Jarrett contributed reporting.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Japanese broadcaster NHK is funded by the Japanese government. NHK is a public broadcaster funded by fees received from viewers. Additionally, NHK itself is not registered under FARA; a U.S.-based company with links to NHK, NHK Cosmomedia America, Inc., is.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 697533

Reported Deaths: 13138
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion951321706
Lake50779930
Allen38511669
Hamilton33981404
St. Joseph33279535
Elkhart26810431
Vanderburgh21931393
Tippecanoe21440212
Johnson17325371
Porter17012297
Hendricks16631308
Clark12592190
Madison12223335
Vigo12089243
Monroe11237166
LaPorte10601204
Delaware10241182
Howard9555211
Kosciusko8999112
Hancock7842137
Bartholomew7797152
Warrick7657155
Floyd7501175
Wayne6846196
Grant6724167
Boone647399
Morgan6335137
Dubois6052117
Marshall5709108
Cass5657102
Dearborn564674
Henry5545100
Noble532583
Jackson489469
Shelby474095
Lawrence4305118
Gibson424988
Harrison424870
Montgomery414486
Clinton413153
DeKalb402583
Huntington371880
Whitley371039
Miami369565
Knox363589
Steuben358457
Putnam350560
Wabash344677
Jasper341646
Adams336652
Ripley332368
Jefferson306479
White305954
Daviess287999
Wells283580
Decatur278092
Fayette276562
Greene268685
Posey267333
Scott258553
Clay250744
LaGrange249970
Randolph233379
Washington228429
Spencer226731
Jennings223947
Fountain207245
Sullivan207041
Starke199352
Owen190856
Fulton188939
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175552
Rush169324
Vermillion165343
Franklin164435
Tipton160343
Parke143416
Blackford131730
Pike129634
Pulaski112245
Newton102334
Brown98840
Crawford96814
Benton94513
Martin81915
Warren78315
Switzerland7678
Union69410
Ohio55311
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1037600

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1203461345
Cuyahoga1048492040
Hamilton774221164
Montgomery49484984
Summit44494904
Lucas39105757
Butler37437566
Stark31094890
Lorain23775467
Warren23688291
Mahoning20622581
Lake19698360
Clermont19305226
Delaware17783130
Licking15970205
Fairfield15493195
Trumbull15377458
Medina14662255
Greene14484233
Clark13433287
Wood12547182
Portage12144193
Allen11216229
Richland10899197
Miami10455211
Muskingum8639127
Columbiana8478225
Wayne8451209
Pickaway8388120
Tuscarawas8311239
Marion8297135
Erie7415153
Ross6636145
Hancock6595123
Geauga6449146
Ashtabula6355163
Scioto625299
Belmont5518158
Union550847
Lawrence5435102
Huron5229112
Darke5225121
Jefferson5210147
Sandusky5087118
Seneca5048118
Washington5029107
Athens493654
Auglaize470484
Mercer467884
Shelby453289
Knox4332108
Putnam417298
Madison416157
Ashland408986
Fulton402165
Defiance395096
Brown383855
Crawford3819100
Logan369676
Preble367995
Clinton356859
Ottawa351978
Highland344858
Williams317574
Champaign317055
Jackson304451
Guernsey303348
Perry286449
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261266
Hardin261063
Coshocton255957
Holmes251499
Van Wert237462
Gallia232146
Pike230931
Adams226151
Wyandot224153
Hocking207057
Carroll187746
Paulding167538
Meigs140838
Noble131737
Monroe128441
Morgan105722
Harrison104836
Vinton80913
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Angola
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 44°
Huntington
Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 43°
Lima
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 53° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 51°
Rain showers continue Saturday evening, as will a few thunderstorms. Overnight, rain will taper off a little as temperatures drop into the mid 40s. On Sunday, rain chances return in late morning and last much of the day. Temperatures max out in the mid 50s and winds will be brisk at times.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events