"Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the US government or public on behalf of foreign principals", Acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said in a statement Tuesday.
The U.S. demand for RT's registration may be mirrored by Moscow, the Kremlin said last week, which would force outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, which receive funding from the U.S. Congress, to register in Russian Federation.
Fraying relations between Washington and Moscow mean that a further escalation could follow with the Russian foreign ministry refusing to rule out the expulsion of Moscow-based foreign correspondents from publishers such as The Washington Post and New York Times.
Monday's statement from the DOJ notes that FARA registration "does not inhibit freedom of expression, does not restrict the content of information disseminated, does not restrict an agent's lobbying or publication of information or advocacy and applies neutrally to all foreign countries". RT has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent of Russian Federation.
After filing under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the network must disclose relationships and activities, presumably on behalf of Russian Federation, to the Justice Department. In January, the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency released a declassified report alleging that RT had sought to undermine the US elections with "consistently negative" coverage of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
Russia is poised to list US media outlets as "foreign agents" by extending legislation used to restrict the activities of civil society groups, Vyacheslav Volodin, Russia's speaker of the lower house of parliament, said Friday in comments posted on the State Duma's website.
The filing, on behalf of T&R Productions, the company that operates RT, said it had received payments from a foreign principal identified as ANO TV-Novosti, a Russian media company.
FARA, which Congress passed in 1938 to combat Nazi propaganda, is meant "to ensure that the American public and our lawmakers know the source of information that is provided at the behest of a foreign principal, where that information may be intended to influence US public opinion, policy and laws", the DOJ said in its statement.
"Between legal action and registration, we have chosen the latter", RT's editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan tweeted Monday.
"Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the USA government or public on behalf of foreign principals", Dana Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security, said. FARA was first passed in 1938 in an effort to combat German propaganda efforts leading up to World War II.