Sep 11, 2017

FBI reportedly probing Sputnik's Russia propaganda ties

FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

The FBI is reportedly investigating whether the Russian government-funded news agency, Sputnik, has been operating as an undisclosed propaganda arm for the Kremlin, which would be in violation of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), per Yahoo News.

Why it matters: "This is incredibly significant," said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent. "[T]his 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."

Sputnik's former White House Correspondent, Andrew Feinberg, said an FBI agent and national security lawyer at the Justice Department questioned him for more than two hours on September 1 about the news agency's "internal structure, editorial processes and funding." Feinberg also said he turned over a thumb drive containing thousands of Sputnik emails and documents that he had downloaded prior to being fired in May.

"They wanted to know where did my orders come from and if I ever got any direction from Moscow," Feinberg told Yahoo News. "They were interested in examples of how I was steered towards covering certain issues."

Relation to Mueller's probe: The investigation is the latest in a string of efforts aimed at determining the extent of Russian government interference in the 2016 presidential election, though it's unclear whether the FBI's probe is related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation. A spokesman for Muller emailed Yahoo news, "We are not confirming whether specific matters are or are not part of our ongoing investigation."

Sputnik's editor-in-chief, Mindia Gavasheli, told Yahoo News: "Any assertion that we are not a news organization is simply false... I think it tells about the atmosphere of hysteria that we are witnessing now."

Go deeper

Amid racial unrest, a test at the polls

Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Eight states plus D.C. are holding primary elections today following a week of intense protests across the country over the brutal police killing of George Floyd.

Why it matters: It's the first major test for voting since the national outcry. Concerns over civil unrest and the police — as well as the coronavirus and expanded absentee voting — could reduce the number of voters showing up in person but heighten tensions for those who do.

Axios-Ipsos poll: America’s big racial divide on police, virus

Data: Ipsos/Axios survey; Note: ±3.2% margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

A new Axios-Ipsos poll finds that America has a massive racial gulf on each of our twin calamities — trust in police, and fear of the coronavirus.

  • 77% of whites say they trust local police, compared with just 36% of African Americans — one of many measures of a throbbing racial divide in Week 11 of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, taken the week George Floyd was killed by a white policeman in Minneapolis.
Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: Four police officers were struck by gunfire while standing near a line in St Louis on Monday after a peaceful demonstration, Police Chief John Hayden said early Tuesday. They were all taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries. He said a small group of people had thrown rocks and fireworks at police officers.