- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sputnik, a news service owned and operated by the Russian government, has lost its bid to be permanently credentialed on Capitol Hill over its direct ties to Moscow.

The Congressional Periodical Press Gallery has denied Sputnik’s request for a permanent media pass, Politico reported Friday, dashing for now the outlet’s odds of closer access to Washington’s movers and shakers.

Composed of a rotating group of accredited journalists, the Periodical Press Gallery assists bona fide print and digital correspondents with press-related questions and issues concerning the House and Senate, according to its website. Additionally, gallery membership also lends to approved outlets receiving greater access on Capitol Hill while also typically opening doors to other centers of power in Washington, like the White House and Supreme Court, Politico reported.

As explained by gallery rules, however, members cannot “act as an agent for, or be employed by the Federal, or any State, local or foreign government.” On the contrary, Sputnik is operated by Rossiya Segodnya, a media conglomerate wholly owned by the Russian government, and has been widely accused of peddling articles beneficial to Moscow and President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The Congressional gallery currently doesn’t have any state-sponsored outlets among its members, Senate Periodical Press Gallery Director Justin Wilson told Politico on Friday, but Sputnik is welcome to appeal this week’s rejection.

On his personal Facebook page, Sputnik correspondent Andrew Feinberg described the ruling as “the most absurd thing I’ve ever encountered in a decade of work as a Washington-based journalist.” Mr. Feinberg declined to comment, and Sputnik did not respond to requests seeking ians official response, Politico reported.

Separately, Mr. Feinberg submitted an application seeking membership for Sputnik among the White House Foreign Press Group, rotating pool of foreign journalists picked to cover the president.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded Mr. Putin directed an influence campaign targeting last year’s White House race using state-sponsored hackers and Russia’s government-funded propaganda apparatus, Sputnik included, to hinder Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s likelihood of winning.

Fueled with fodder stolen from Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, “[s]tate-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments about President-elect Trump as the 2016 U.S. general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton,” the U.S. intelligence community determined in January.

FBI Director James Comey has since confirmed federal investigators are considering whether the Russian government colluded with Mr. Trump’s team prior to last year’s election, notwithstanding repeated denials from either party.

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