New reports say that the FBI is now looking into Russian newspaper Sputnik, investigating possible direct influence it may have had in popular vote loser Donald Trump winning the 2016 US presidential election.
Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff and Hunter Walker report that the FBI is now investigating the Kremlin-tied paper as part of an “influence campaign” to help Trump win the White House.
The FBI has now questioned former White House correspondent for Sputnik, which is a Russian-government-funded news agency. The questioning is an effort to learn whether it is acting as a propaganda arm of the Kremlin, which is a clear violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Yahoo News has since learned that the FBI has obtained a thumb drive containing thousands of Sputnik emails and documents, which are believed to contain material that could help prosecutors put together a strong case against the Russian news agency for playing a role in the Russian government’s “influence campaign” in the 2016 US Presidential election. Yahoo News points out:
The emails were turned over by Andrew Feinberg, the news agency’s former White House correspondent, who had downloaded the material onto his laptop before he was fired in May. He confirmed to Yahoo News that he was questioned for more than two hours on Sept. 1 by an FBI agent and a Justice Department national security lawyer at the bureau’s Washington field office.
Feinberg said the interview was focused on Sputnik’s “internal structure, editorial processes and funding.”
“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.”
It is unknown whether the the FBI’s questioning of Feinberg was an act part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 election and possible links to the Trump campaign.
“We are not confirming whether specific matters are or are not part of our ongoing investigation,” one of Mueller’s spokespeople said via email.
Former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa says the developments are “incredibly significant.”
“The FBI has since the 1970s taken pains not to be perceived in any way as infringing on First Amendment activity,” he said. “But 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.”
How much evidence does the FBI need? Seems like they would have enough already, especially with letters like Feinberg’s. The real question is will Congress wake up and do something with all the evidence they have?