WSJ: Trump-Linked Data Firm Pitched Assange On Organizing Hacked Emails

Kirsty Wigglesworth

New details of Cambridge Analytica’s outreach to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange emerged in a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday night that the data firm, which was working for President Trump’s campaign, had reached out to Assange offering to help organize the hacked emails Wikileaks had been releasing.

Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix told employees and associates of the firm, including Trump mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, via email about the pitch to Assange, according to the Journal, and Nix’s email said he had not heard back from Assange.

The Journal’s report is based on the account of an unnamed source who was “familiar with the effort” and had recently viewed the email. The email was sent in late July 2016, after the Republican National Convention, according to the report.

Neither Cambridge Analytica nor Assange responded to the Journal’s inquiries.

Assange has confirmed that Cambridge Analytica did make some entreaties to him, as first reported by the Daily Beast on Wednesday. Assange in a tweet Wednesday afternoon, before the Journal’s story came out, said that he could confirm that he had rejected Cambridge Analytica’s entreaty, but that he had not confirmed the subject of the offer.

Cambridge Analytica is partially owned by Robert Mercer, Rebekah’s father, and has touted its ability to analyze social media to create personality profiles of potential voters. It was first working for Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign, but began working for Trump’s campaign in July 2016, with the first payment to the firm coming July 29, according to the Journal.

Canbridge Analytica has been asked to turn over information to the House Intel Committee’s Russia probe, the Daily Beast reported earlier this month.

The Trump campaign is now distancing itself from the data firm in light of the Assange news. Wednesday afternoon, after the Daily Beast story was published, Trump campaign executive director Michael Glassner issued a statement that did not mention Cambridge Analytica by name, but stressed instead its data partnership with the Republican National Committee.

“Any claims that voter data from any other source played a key role in the victory here are false,” it said.

The Trump campaign paid Cambridge Analytica $5.9 million, according to FEC filings, though Trump allies are now claiming those forms were mislabeled. According to an October 2016 Bloomberg profile of the campaign’s data operation, Cambridge Analytica scientists embedded with the Trump campaign, where they helped choose rally locations and focused the campaign’s social media outreach.

The Wall Street Journal also reported Wednesday that Rebekah Mercer and a person close to her had a conversation in June 2016 about seeking Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails, but they ultimately decided such an effort would create “major legal liabilities” and would be a “terrible idea.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tierney Sneed is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. She previously worked for U.S. News and World Report. She grew up in Florida and attended Georgetown University.

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