Joe Lauria: It certainly comes out of the mass mania surrounding Russia-gate, which we now know was based on paid for opposition research by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. So the entire Russian-gate narrative rests on unverified opposition research, not intelligence work. It also formed the basis of the January 6 assessment by three US intelligence agencies, which claim that Russia not only hacked their computers, but they have launched this influence campaign and they extend many pages on RT.
Now RT has not a great reach inside the United States. The idea that RT had any effect on this election is absurd. RT is the Russian perspective on news the way BBC has a British perspective, and CNN has an American perspective. It’s no more a propaganda than BBC or CNN.
Sputnik: How does this leave US freedom of speech? How legal is this move from the point of the US Constitution?
Joe Lauria: The Constitution says that governments cannot prevent free speech. I think the US government is arguing that they are not preventing free speech; they see RT as foreign agents and that’s why they want it to register; but I don’t think they will say that they are shutting down RT. That would be a pure violation of the first amendment. There are plenty of foreign news agencies operating inside the US and none of them are being asked to do this. So this is all based on hysteria from Russia-gate.
RT provides platforms for journalists like myself who have had many stories suppressed by my editors because they were critical of US foreign policy. So I go on RT as other journalists do. This is a part of this whole game that’s getting completely out of control in the United States about Russia being responsible for everything that goes wrong inside the US, responsible for this election result.
Sputnik: In practical terms what does it [Foreign Agents Registration Act] do to RT’s coverage? Does it impede it in any way?
Joe Lauria: I don’t know what the consequences are going to be. It’s as what we’ve seen with the Paul Manafort indictment, for example, and they’ve been going after General Flin. If you are deemed an agent of a foreign government and you don’t register then that is illegal. So that’s very serious.
Sputnik: Moscow has announced that it is weighing up similar measures against CNN. what do you think Washington’s reaction will be to this?
Joe Lauria: Oh they are going to go ballistic and of course they are going to be very angry about that. CNN, which is already as anti-Russian as can be, will notch it up even further. They are going to go nuts if they do that and they will blame it on press repression that they claim already exists inside Russia even though they are many anti-Putin newspapers that are already being published in Russia. If that happens I will really enjoy and have a good laugh at how the CNN and the US government would react.
Joe Lauria is an independent journalist, former Wall Street Journal correspondent and author of "How I Lost By Hillary Clinton," with a Foreword by Julian Assange.