BLOG

One day after UK television channel ITN 4 news released a video showing a British political data firm's CEO suggesting they could help entrap a political rival with bribes, sex workers and even an offer "he can't refuse," the news outlet has dropped a second video of the encounter in which the firm takes credit for Trump's 2016 election win. 

An undercover Channel 4 News operative posing as a prospective client who desired to affect the outcome of the election in Sri Lanka, recorded several interviews with Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix and other executives bragging about various methods of playing dirty politics. 

"It doesn't have to be true," Nix said. "It just has to be believed."

Nix was suspended earlier today, and the company issued the following statement that reads in part:  

The Board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation.

In the view of the Board, Mr. Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.

In today's video, the British data company was secretly filmed discussing coordination between the Trump campaign and outside groups.

Analytica, bosses also talked about:

  • The full scale of their pivotal work in Trump’s election win
  • How they avoid Congressional investigations into their foreign clients
  • Setting up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages onto social media
  • Using a secret email system where messages self-destruct and leave no trace
  • Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads

In a series of meetings filmed at London hotels over four months, between November 2017 and January 2018 an undercover reporter for Channel 4 News posed as a fixer for a wealthy client hoping to get candidates elected in Sri Lanka. -Channel 4

CA reps bragged to the undercover operative that the company allowed Trump to win with a narrow margin of just "40,000 votes" in three states despite losing the popular vote by over 3,000,000 votes. 

Nix bragged about their work for the campaign, telling the operative "We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.

Another executive at CA, Mark Turnbull, said “Sometimes you can use proxy organisations who are already there. You feed them. They are civil society organisations.. Charities or activist groups, and we use them – feed them the material and they do the work…

“We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”

Channel Four notes in their report; "No doubt, some of CA's claims about the Trump campaign are nothing more than self-serving sales patter." 

Of note, Ted Cruz's campaign dropped the company during the 2016 campaign after its psychographic models were unable to identify likely Cruz supporters. As for the Trump campaign's decision to drop the firm months before the election;

The crucial decision was made in late September or early October when Mr. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump's digital guru on the 2016 campaign, decided to utilize just the RNC data for the general election and used nothing from that point from Cambridge Analytica or any other data vendor. -CBS

Cambridge Analytica has denied using bribes, entrapment "or so-called honey-traps."

Defeat Crooked Hillary

During another meeting with the Channel 4 operative, Turnbull bragged about their "Defeat Crooked Hillary" advertising campaign, funded by Rebekah Mercer's Make America Number 1 super-pac, seen over 30 million times during the campaign. 

While coordination between an official election campaign and outside groups is illegal, CA insists they employed a strict firewall between activities and that they were transparent about their work. 

No paper trail

During a discussion at a hotel, Alexander Nix describes how CA utilizes ultrasecure free email service, ProtonMail, which utilizes a timed self-destruct mechanism to eliminate evidence. 

No-one knows we have it, and secondly we set our… emails with a self-destruct timer… So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear. There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

***

As we previously reported, CA, an offshoot of UK company SCL group, was created in 2013 with a $15 million investment by billionaire GOP donor Robert Mercer and a major push from former Breitbart executive chairman and former Trump advisor, Steve Bannon. 

In 2014, SCL entered into a contract with a company called Global Science Research (GSR), owned by Aleksandr Kogan - a Cambridge-based psychologist. Kogan's app, called "thisismydigitallife," harvested the data of millions of users which Cambridge Analytica bought.

When Facebook found out in 2015 that Cambridge / SCL had purchased the data, they was asked to stop and delete all of the harvested data. They said they did - however Facebook banned Cambridge Analytica and their parent company SCL after an anonymous source which Facebook won't disclose reported that not all of the data had been deleted. 

Last fall, special counsel Robert Mueller asked Cambridge Analytica to turn over all emails from any employees who worked on the Trump campaign contract, which the firm complied with.

The Trump campaign's contact with the firm ended on Election day 2016 and is no longer associated in any way.