Trump’s Digital Operation Comes Under Scrutiny By House Judiciary Committee: THE FACTS
The expanded inquiry puts Cambridge Analytica, WikiLeaks, and the Trump campaign’s digital operation squarely in the cross-hairs of congressional investigators.
The House Judiciary Committee unveiled a sweeping request for documents on Monday in what represents a massive expansion of the scope of the current congressional investigation into Trump and his inner circle.
The document requests serve as a roadmap, providing key insight into where the congressional investigation is headed
In total, the Judiciary Committee is seeking documents and testimony from 81 individuals and entities associated with Trump, including his family, businesses, campaign and transition teams, inaugural committee, and presidential administration.
The document requests serve as a roadmap, providing key insight into where the congressional investigation is headed and who may find themselves caught up in the expanded inquiry.
Trump’s Digital Operation Comes Under Scrutiny
Notably, a number of prominent figures from Trump’s digital team are featured on the list of document requests. These include Trump’s former digital director and current campaign manager Brad Parscale, the now-defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica — which shut down last year amid an international scandal — along with its parent company, SCL Group.
Also on the list are several former executives of Cambridge Analytica, including former CEO Alexander Nix and former business development director Brittany Kaiser, as well as Julian Wheatland, director of SCL Group.
In addition to these individuals and entities, the Judiciary Committee is also seeking documents and testimony from WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, along with several key players who had contact (directly or indirectly) with WikiLeaks and/or Assange, including Roger Stone, Jerome Corsi, Randy Credico, Sam Nunberg, and Ted Malloch.
The Judiciary Committee’s focus on these people and organizations, as well as the specific areas of inquiry outlined in the document requests, suggests that Congress is still actively looking at the ties between the Trump campaign, Russia, and WikiLeaks, which has been labeled by the U.S. intelligence community as a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”
Cambridge Analytica: The Missing Link Between Trump, Russia, & WikiLeaks?
Investigators have long been interested in finding out what the Trump campaign knew about WikiLeaks’ plans to publish emails that were hacked by Russia ahead of the 2016 election.
Those emails, which included internal communications from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) as well as Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, were strategically released over a period of several months with the goal of hurting Clinton’s campaign.
While Trump maintains that his campaign had no advanced knowledge of upcoming WikiLeaks’ dumps, there is ample reason to believe otherwise. During explosive testimony last week, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen added to the suspicion when he told Congress that Trump knew ahead of time that WikiLeaks was planning to release the hacked emails.
Cohen testified that he was in Trump’s office in July 2016 when Roger Stone informed Trump of WikiLeaks’ plans to publish a “massive dump of emails that would damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”
But Roger Stone is far from the only link connecting the Trump campaign to WikiLeaks.
Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by the Trump campaign in June 2016 to take over its digital operations, has been tied to WikiLeaks repeatedly since the start of the Russia investigation.
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie testified last year that the data firm recruited at least two people who were “closely associated” with WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange. Those two people were reportedly recruited specifically because of their relationship to WikiLeaks.
Even more damning evidence was presented in June 2018, when BBC correspondent Paul Wood reported that Cambridge Analytica was in possession of hacked Democratic emails at least a month before they were published online by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Additionally, Alexander Nix — Cambridge Analytica’s former CEO — has admitted that he reached out to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an effort to track down emails deleted from Clinton’s servers. Nix reportedly offered to help Assange index and distribute the 33,000 emails. Assange has confirmed that he received Nix’s email, but said he rejected the offer to team up with Cambridge Analytica.
A second Cambridge Analytica executive, Brittany Kaiser, also had contact with the WikiLeaks founder. In February 2017, Kaiser traveled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where she met with Assange to discuss what happened during the U.S. election. She also said she had channeled cryptocurrency donations and payments to WikiLeaks.
Last month, Kaiser revealed that she had been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller and was cooperating with the ongoing inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The Russian Connection
Cambridge Analytica also has connections to Russia, which Nix lied about when British investigators asked him if the firm or its parent company had any ties to Russia.
Before working for the Trump campaign, executives from Cambridge Analytica met at least three times in 2014 and 2015 with Kremlin-linked officials from Russian oil company Lukoil. The oil giant, which is known to be linked to Russian intelligence, reportedly “showed interest” in using data to micro-target messages to American voters.
Cambridge Analytica was also actively working on projects funded by the Russian government at the same time that it was working on its data-harvesting operation, which involved accessing private Facebook data harvested from up to 87 million people, including more than 70 million Americans.
Some of these projects involved working directly with Russian intelligence companies on “
Executives from Cambridge Analytica met at least three times in 2014 and 2015 with Kremlin-linked officials from Russian oil company Lukoil
During that same time period, Russia’s Internet Research Agency (colloquially known as the “troll factory”) started working on its campaign to influence the American electorate by “[seizing] on controversial issues and [exploiting] racial and ideological fissures to inflame tensions” — the very same tactics Cambridge Analytica specializes in.
In parallel piece — Trump’s Digital Operation Comes Under Scrutiny By House Judiciary Committee: THE ARGUMENT — Caroline Orr argues that the congressional investigation is homing in on the burning question of Russian collusion, with a particular focus on Cambridge Analytica’s role.