Two years before the election—and at the same time as Russian operatives were setting up their cyber-warfare operation to interfere in the upcoming American election—Donald Trump’s campaign CEO Steve Bannon was using Cambridge Analytica’s social media tools to test American receptiveness to messages promoting Russian president Vladimir Puttin and “Russian expansion.”
Cambridge Analytica and the firm’s relationship with Steve Bannon has largely drifted out of the headlines, replaced by more recent outrages. But information continues to appear showing that Steve Bannon had a very special reason for creating the US company in the first place:
Under Bannon’s instruction, the firm discussed Putin with focus groups and was “also testing images of Vladimir Putin and asking questions about Russian expansion in Eastern Europe,” [Christopher] Wylie said.
Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica employee who helped implement the tools that made the company invaluable to the Trump campaign, spoke to Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee. He was one of several witnesses Democrats had asked to call, before Republicans leading the committee abruptly shut down the House investigation and pushed out their memo saying that they had found no evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia.
It was Wylie who previously revealed Cambridge Analytica’s use of stolen Facebook data. He also highlighted how, in addition to Putin, the company had been testing Trump’s test phrases, like “build the wall” and “drain the swamp” a year before Trump announced as a candidate.
Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told House Democrats that former Trump campaign strategist Steve Bannon used the firm’s research to discourage Democrats from voting in the 2016 election, according to testimony released Wednesday.
That’s a task that was likely made easier because Republicans had their hands on Democratic turn-out models. Models stolen from the DNC by Russian operatives.
There’s little doubt that Bannon and Cambridge Analytica went after voters by race.
“Yes,” Wylie responded, according to the transcript released by the Democrats. “If by that term you mean discouraging particular types of voters who are more prone to voting for Democratic or liberal candidates, if that’s what you mean by that term, then yes.”
But they had more detailed information. They had the Facebook profile information of up to 85 million Americans, and they had something else.
More impressed after studying the voter-turnout models, [Republican consultant Aaron Nevins] told the hacker, “Basically if this was a war, this is the map to where all the troops are deployed.”
At another point, he told the hacker, “This is probably worth millions of dollars.”
Bannon knew where to aim. He spent years honing his weapons. And he started firing long before election day. For Donald Trump … and for Putin.
“It was the only foreign issue, or foreign leader, I should say, being tested at the time I was there,” Wylie told Democrats from the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, according to excerpts the lawmakers released today drawn from a Tuesday briefing with Wylie. Under Bannon’s instruction, the firm discussed Putin with focus groups and was “also testing images of Vladimir Putin and asking questions about Russian expansion in Eastern Europe,” Wylie said.