The CEO of Donald-Trump-linked political data firm Cambridge Analytica was caught on video offering to use prostitutes and bribes to smear the political enemies of the firm's clients, an explosive documentary that aired Monday on the United Kingdom's Channel Four revealed. Cambridge Analytica is the U.K.-based company often credited with helping to engineer Trump's 2016 election victory by using "psychographic" data to create personality profiles of individual voters, helping the Trump campaign target those voters with highly personalized propaganda messages via social media outlets such as Facebook.
On Friday, Facebook announced that it had suspended Cambridge Analytica's parent company, Strategic Communication Laboratory, after a former Cambridge Analytica employee revealed that the firm had taken user information from at least 50 million Facebook users to create their "psychographic" profiles — the vast majority of that information taken without permission from the users.
An undercover investigation by Channel Four, however, showed Cambridge Analytica top executives, including CEO Alexander Nix, engaging in even sleazier political practices. In one interaction with the British TV network's reporters — posing as potential Cambridge Analytica clients — Nix is heard saying that he could "send some girls around to the candidate's house," and adding that Ukrainian prostitutes in particular "are very beautiful, I find that works very well."
Watch the entire Channel Four expose on Cambridge Analytica in the video below.In another exchange with the undercover reporters, Nix said that his firm could "offer a large amount of money to the candidate." He would make a video recording of the candidate taking the bribe and then post it on the internet, Nix said — later adding that he was "just giving you examples of what can be done and what, what has been done," the New York Times reported.
Cambridge Analytica was funded primarily by far-right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, who became an ardent Trump supporter after initially backing Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the 2016 presidential race, according to a profile of Mercer in The New Yorker magazine. Trump's campaign CEO, who later became White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon served as a vice-president of the political consulting firm.
Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner oversaw the "data operation" run by the 2016 Trump campaign, and is believed to be responsible for bringing Cambridge Analytica into the campaign.
But the Channel Four investigation appeared to show that Cambridge Analytica considers itself far more than a mere data-crunching firm, also seeing itself as a shadowy political dirty-tricks factory.
"We have a long history of working behind the scenes you know," Nix says in the Channel Four documentary, viewable above. "Many of our clients don't want to be seen to be working with a foreign company. We can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists. There's so many options we can look at."
Cambridge Analytica may also provide a key link between the Trump campaign and the Russian propaganda operation that targeted Americans with content on Facebook designed to promote Trump's candidacy and damage his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. On February 16, Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued indictments of 13 Russians involved in the Facebook operation, including the operation's chief financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close associate of the country's president, Vladimir Putin.
Executives of Cambridge Analytica met with the Russian oil company Lukoil in 2014, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper. Lukoil has since signed a "cooperation agreement" with Russia's Federal Security Service, known as the FSB, one of the Russian intelligence agencies identified by United States intelligence as orchestrating computer hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign during the 2016 election cycle.