Although a lot of details of the Russia investigation have appeared in media reports, there remains a whole lot just beneath the surface as if the whole endeavor is an iceberg. In recent days, it’s come out that a former employee of Cambridge Analytica faced a subpoena from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and has subsequently been cooperating.
Cambridge Analytica is the now defunct British data analysis and political campaigning firm that has been scrutinized over its relationship to the Trump campaign and in general.
The organization engaged in a number of dirty tricks, and was serving the Trump campaign throughout the months leading up to the 2016 elections while it was revealed to have benefited from a leak of massive troves of Facebook data that informed its campaigning efforts.
Neither of these issues are precisely where the special counsel’s newest reported interest lies, however. There’s more corruption within the now former organization. In February 2017, it turns out, the organization’s then-business development director Brittany Kaiser met with none other than Wikileaks leader Julian Assange in his hideout in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the United Kingdom. Assange was responsible for the distribution of troves of emails that Russian hackers stole from the Democratic Party in the months before the 2016 elections, seeking to tip the outcome away from then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
In late 2016, then-Cambridge Analytica chief executive Alexander Nix actually sought to obtain some of the emails from Wikileaks. He wasn’t the only capable Trump supporter seeking similar material — throughout 2016, Trump associate Roger Stone was also seeking stolen emails from Wikileaks with the help of his associate Jerome Corsi. Stone was recently indicted on charges including witness tampering, lying to Congress, and obstruction of justice for his scheme to conceal those efforts.
Kaiser’s lawyer says that her interactions with Assange stemmed from a “chance encounter in London with an acquaintance who knew him,” and they eventually only met for about 20 minutes and did not discuss the 2016 elections (which at that point were, of course, in the rearview mirror).
Years before, all the way back in 2011, she apparently also gave a donation to Wikileaks in bitcoin because she says she received some bitcoin and didn’t know what use she’d have for them but had previously “benefited” from material that Wikileaks distributed.
The information about her getting drawn into the Mueller investigation emerged in a perhaps unique place — the upcoming Netflix documentary The Great Hack, which features her at times.
She’s not the first former Cambridge Analytica employee who’s been drawn into the special counsel’s investigation. Sam Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent in the United States despite lobbying work including getting foreign money to the Trump inaugural committee, and agreed to cooperate with investigators. He’d worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who’s gone down on similar allegations of secret lobbying work, and Konstantin Kilimnik, who was also an associate of Manafort and is suspected of having ties to Russian intelligence.
As the investigation continues, the possibility of further charges against others certainly remains. Even Donald Trump Jr. has been said to be worried about getting indicted.
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