Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica, the data firm backed by billionaire Trump donor Robert Mercer and closely tied to many in Trump’s orbit, have been captured on film saying they use entrapment and former intelligence officials on behalf of their political clients.
The tape was captured by Channel 4 News, which on Monday released a hidden camera investigation featuring a man posing as a prospective client of the data firm’s, in conversation with Cambridge Analytica executives: Alexander Nix, the firm’s CEO (pictured above); Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica Political Global, according to Channel 4; and Alex Taylor, Cambridge Analytica’s chief data officer.
The investigation will add to the already-intense scrutiny of the firm, in light of reports over the weekend (and months ago) that it used millions of Facebook users’ data without their permission. Facebook, according to the reports, did little to protect the data from abuse. President Donald Trump’s former chief adviser, Steve Bannon, is a former vice president of the company, and Trump’s campaign director for his 2020 re-election campaign, Brad Parscale, worked closely with Cambridge Analytica in 2016 to boost Trump’s digital operations.
In a secretly recorded meeting with Channel 4 News’ fake client, Nix suggested secretly entrapping politicians and then exposing them for political gain.
“Deep digging is interesting, but you know, equally effective can be just to go and speak to the incumbents and to offer them a deal that’s too good to be true, and make sure that that’s video recorded,” he said. “These sorts of tactics are very effective, instantly having video evidence of corruption and putting it on the internet, these sorts of things.”
Nix said he could use “somebody posing as a wealthy developer” offering a bribe in exchange for land in order to entrap a political opponent.
“Send some girls around to the candidate’s house,” he added. “We have lots of history of things.”
“We could bring some Ukrainians in on holiday with us, you know,” he said later, noting separately: “Please don’t pay too much attention to what I’m saying because I’m just giving you examples of what can be done, what has been done.”
Later in the meeting, Nix emphasized: “I mean, it sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true, as long as they’re believed.”
The company’s representatives also discussed ways to keep their involvement in campaigns hidden from the public.
“It may be that we have to contract under a different name,” Turnbull said at one point. “A different entity, with a different name, so that no record exists with our name attached to this at all.”
“Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company,” Nix said separately. “So often we set up, if we are working then 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. I have lots of experience in this.”
Finally, the report highlighted, Turnbull claimed to have experience working with ex-spies working for “British companies” and “Israeli companies,” the latter of which he called “very effective in intelligence gathering.”
“We just used a different organization to run a very, very successful project in a eastern European country where no-one even knew they were there,” he said. “They just ghosted in, did the work, ghosted out, and produced really, really good material.”
A spokesperson for Cambridge Analytica told Channel 4 News: “We entirely refute any allegation that Cambridge Analytica or any of its affiliates use entrapment, bribes, or so-called ‘honey-traps’ for any purpose whatsoever… We routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions…”
The spokesperson added: “Cambridge Analytica does not use untrue material for any purpose.”
Watch Channel 4 News’ report below: