By now we’re all intimately familiar with the Foreign Agent Registration Act, thanks to the number of Donald Trump campaign advisers who violated that law by taking Kremlin money before or during the election. Now it turns out the Trump administration is preemptively invoking that same FARA law in relation to a Russian TV news network, in a manner which signals he’s afraid of the network in question.
Russia Today, which has since changed its name to RT, is an English-language and Kremlin-funded television propaganda network whose sole purpose is to spread Putin’s lies to the western world. This week the Trump administration announced that it intends to force U.S. employees of RT to register as foreign agents (link). While this is the proper move, considering that RT employees are indirectly being paid by the Kremlin, the Trump administration has no above-board motivation for this move whatsoever.
Trump and his team couldn’t care less about whether United States citizens are committing FARA violations by working for Russia Today. This move is also risky in that it draws more attention to the Russian scandal at a time when Trump is desperate to distract from that scandal at almost any cost. So this move very much comes across as Trump (or whoever is feeding him strategic advice at this point) being afraid of what Russia Today might do to him.
The move acts as a deterrent for any American journalists thinking of going to work for RT, and potentially undermines its credibility. RT has hired American journalists such as former MSNBC host Ed Schultz, among others, in an effort to convince audiences that its pro-Kremlin propaganda is legitimate. Trump appears to be trying to cut off the pipeline of American has-beens flowing to RT. His only reason for doing so would be to take RT’s legs out before it can… who knows? Convince Americans to turn against Trump? Broadcast the Pee Pee Tape? Trump’s paranoia here is fuzzy – but it’s clear he is afraid of RT and its power in the West.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report