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A national flag-raising ceremony is held at Tian'anmen Square in Beijing on Jan. 1. (Photo by Peng Ziyang /Xinhua via Getty Images)

A Republican congressman has asked Attorney General William Barr to examine whether Chinese state news agency Xinhua has registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), in a letter viewed exclusively by Axios.

Why it matters: The wave of U.S. government concern about foreign government funded-media outlets isn't subsiding — and China is still a main focus.

In the Jan. 22 letter to Barr, Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) notes that Xinhua does not appear to have registered yet and calls it "extremely troubling" that it hasn't. He asks the Department of Justice to look closely at the issue.

  • Xinhua operate bureaus in major cities across the United States.
  • The letter quotes the 2017 annual report from the U.S.-China Security and Economic Review Commission, which stated that "Xinhua serves some functions of an intelligence agency by gathering information and producing classified reports for the Chinese government."
  • FARA requires entities that receive foreign government funding or direction to submit disclosures to the Department of Justice, and that information is entered into a public database. The law does not interfere with or regulate the operations of those who register.

What they're saying:

  • "Xinhua and the Chinese Communist Party have deep, longstanding ties," Banks noted in the letter — but "there have been no reports that the Xinhua News Agency has filed as a foreign agent."

Context: Banks' letter is a follow-up to a January 2018 letter spearheaded by Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio which called on the Justice Department to look closely at Chinese state-funded media outlets operating in the United States, including Xinhua and CGTN America, the U.S. outpost of China's government-run broadcaster.

  • Leahy and Rubio sent that letter one month after I reported that CGTN America had not registered under FARA.

Background: The Russia investigation highlighted the role of foreign-funded media outlets in efforts to influence U.S. public opinion. The Department of Justice compelled Russian government-funded news network RT America to register under FARA, which helped spark discussion around official Chinese outlets in the United States.

But the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has expressed concern with the Justice Department's move over the past two years to compel some foreign government-funded media outlets to register under the act.

  • "We're uncomfortable with governments deciding what constitutes journalism or propaganda," CPJ said in a statement after Russian news outlet RT was compelled to register in November 2017.

Read the letter:

Go deeper: China's expanding global influence campaigns are sparking pushback

Go deeper

Broncos and 49ers the latest NFL teams impacted by coronavirus crisis

From left, Denver Broncos quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Jeff Driskel during an August training session at UCHealth Training Center in Englewood, Colorado. Photo: Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the NFL season into chaos, with all Denver Broncos quarterbacks sidelined, the San Francisco 49ers left without a home or practice ground and much of the Baltimore Ravens team unavailable, per AP.

Driving the news: The Broncos confirmed in a statement Saturday night that quarterbacks Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles were identified as "high-risk COVID-19 close contacts" and will follow the NFL's mandatory five-day quarantine, making them ineligible for Sunday's game against New Orleans.

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: McConnell temporarily halts in-person lunches for GOP caucus.
  3. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in DecemberAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  4. Education: U.S. public school enrollment drops as pandemic persists.
  5. Cities: Surge in cases forces San Francisco to impose curfew — Los Angeles County issues stay-at-home order, limits gatherings.
  6. Sports: NFL bans in-person team activities Monday, Tuesday due to COVID-19 surge — NBA announces new coronavirus protocols.
  7. World: London police arrest more than 150 during anti-lockdown protests — Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.

Tony Hsieh, longtime Zappos CEO, dies at 46

Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/FilmMagic

Tony Hsieh, the longtime ex-chief executive of Zappos, died on Friday after being injured in a house fire, his lawyer told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He was 46.

The big picture: Hsieh was known for his unique approach to management, and following the 2008 recession his ongoing investment and efforts to revitalize the downtown Las Vegas area.

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