Trump’s Digital Operation Comes Under Scrutiny By House Judiciary Committee: THE ARGUMENT
Following the FACTS outlined by the congressional requests for documents, Caroline Orr sets out the road map ahead and argues a new era of accountability is on the way for Trump and his digital operation
The House Judiciary Committee published a sweeping series of document requests Monday as part of an expanded investigation into potential crimes committed by Trump and his associates during the time period spanning the 2016 campaign through the present day.
The list of recipients encompasses Trump’s entire orbit, with a notable focus on individuals and entities associated with the digital operation run by his campaign.
According to the document requests, the House Judiciary Committee is seeking information about any communication that Cambridge Analytica, its parent company SCL Group, and/or company executives had with WikiLeaks, Assange, or Russia. Congress is also demanding documents pertaining to any attempts to exchange campaign data or information with foreign entities.
Follow the Data
As seen below in the text from the document requests sent to Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group, the committee appears to be particularly interested in whether the companies were involved in efforts to share data and related information through intermediaries connected to the Trump campaign.
The committee is requesting similar information from Brad Parscale, who was responsible for overseeing the Trump campaign’s digital operations in 2016.
Cambridge Analytica may have helped weaponize and disseminate the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks in order to maximize their impact.
As digital director, Parscale — along with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — personally brought Cambridge Analytica onboard to assist with the campaign’s digital activities, which included “designing target audiences for digital ads and fund-raising appeals, modeling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads, and determining where Mr. Trump should travel to best drum up support.”
The committee is also questioning Parscale about his work for Trump beyond the 2016 campaign, citing his ongoing role overseeing Trump’s re-election effort.
Notably, the committee is also seeking information from the late Peter Smith, a Republican opposition researcher who reportedly reached out to Russian hackers as part of an effort to search for emails deleted from Clinton’s server.
Email Hacks and Facebook Micro-targeting
The Judiciary Committee appears to be particularly interested in Cambridge Analytica’s ties to the Trump campaign, WikiLeaks, and Russia, which have prompted questions about whether the data company may have served as a bridge between these three entities by providing assistance and coordinating activities to maximize the impact of Russia’s influence operation.
For example, if the Internet Research Agency had access to data stolen from millions of unwitting Facebook users, it could have used that to micro-target advertisements to voters in key swing states. It has been previously been reported that Russian-backed Facebook ads specifically targeted voters in Michigan and Wisconsin — two states that were key to Trump’s electoral college victory.
If the Internet Research Agency had access to data stolen from millions of unwitting Facebook users, it could have used that to micro-target advertisements to voters in key swing states
Questions have also been raised about whether Cambridge Analytica may have helped weaponize and disseminate the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks in order to maximize their impact.
The release of the first hacked DNC documents by Guccifer 2.0 — who has since been identified as a Russian intelligence agent — received very little attention. But a month later, when WikiLeaks published a curated collection of emails three days before the Democratic National Convention, the release became headline news for weeks. Without the curation that was done in June and July 2016, the impact of the WikiLeaks dump would have been dramatically lessened.
All of these questions became even more significant with the recent revelation that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly shared sensitive internal polling data
Similarly, investigators are reportedly looking into the possibility that Russia’s Internet Research Agency coordinated with WikiLeaks and far-right media outlets in the U.S. to amplify, target, and spread disinformation to specific audiences at strategic points during the campaign. Investigators are also keenly interested in determining whether the Trump campaign was aware of or involved with the coordination of such activities.
All of these questions became even more significant with the recent revelation that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort allegedly shared sensitive internal polling data with a Ukrainian business associate who has known ties to Russian intelligence. This, too, is a focus of the Judiciary Committee’s document request.
The expanded inquiry unveiled Monday by the Judiciary Committee overlaps with concurrent investigations by the special counsel’s office and the Southern District of New York. It also covers some of the same territory that was investigated last year by the House of Representatives — but at the time, it was controlled by Republicans, who prematurely ended their investigation in an apparent attempt to shield Trump from scrutiny.
Now, with Democrats in control, Congress is finally carrying out their constitutional oversight duty — and if Monday’s document requests are any indication, this is the start of a new era of accountability.