'Appearances can be deceptive' - CEO falls on sword, but did Cambridge Analytica swing the US election for Trump?

Former chief executive of CA Alexander Nix is at the centre of a firestorm concerning the alleged swinging of the 2016 US election in Donald Trump’s favour.

GettyImages-607814928 Alexander Nix Bryan Bedder / Getty Bryan Bedder / Getty / Getty

Updated 8.40pm

CONTROVERSIAL DATA ANALYSIS firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix, pending a full investigation, from his role in the wake of a snowballing scandal relating to the ‘harvesting’ of 50 million US voters’ Facebook profiles with a view to perpetrating information-led electoral warfare.

Nix was yesterday shown on camera, as part of an undercover exposé on CA, discussing the alleged use of bribery and entrapment to achieve results for his company in elections around the globe.

This evening, Channel 4 News broadcast an additional report into the inner workings of Cambridge Analytica, this time focused on the company’s role in Donald Trump’s successful election campaign in 2016.

In a series of undercover meetings held between November 2017 and February of this year, Channel 4′s undercover reporter, who posed as a Sri Lankan hoping to influence elections in his home country, heard from CA executives, including Nix, about the techniques allegedly employed with regard to Trump’s presidential run.

Channel 4 News / YouTube

They claimed that the company’s data expertise had enabled Trump to win with a margin of “40,000″ votes in three states key to swinging the American electoral college system, rendering Trump’s loss of the popular vote moot.

At one meeting, Nix boasted:

We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.

CA’s head of data Alex Tayler, who has now succeeded Nix as temporary CEO, also suggests that “the fact that Donald Trump lost the popular vote by three million votes but won the electoral college vote, that’s down to the data and the research”.

You did your rallies in the right locations, you moved more people out in those key swing states on election day. That’s how he won the election.

Many meetings

Nix claims to have met with Trump himself “many times” over the course of the campaign, with managing director Mark Turnbull also claiming responsibility for the company regarding the “defeat Crooked Hillary” campaign.

“The zeros, the (double-o) of crooked were a pair of handcuffs… we made hundreds of different kinds of creative, and we put it online,” he told the undercover reporter.

Those ads were funding by a Super PAC (political action committee), Make America Number 1.

Such PACs are supposed to be entirely separate from an official electoral campaign under US law, leading to the suggestion that CA may have committed illegalities.

Nix also referenced his appearance before the house intelligence congressional committee in the US, which he suggests was not particularly onerous to navigate.

The Republican lawmakers asked just three questions, he states: “after five minutes – done.” While the Democrat members of the committee did question him for a number of hours, this did not prove problematic for Nix as “they’re politicians, they’re not technical – they don’t understand how it works”.

They don’t understand because the candidate never, is never involved. He’s told what to do by the campaign team.

When asked if a candidate in such a situation is a ‘puppet’, Nix responds: “Always.”

A Cambridge Analytica spokesperson tonight told Channel 4 News that “CA has never claimed it won the election for president Trump”.

‘Patently absurd’

“This is patently absurd,” they said.

We are proud of the work we did on that campaign, and have spoken in many public forums about what we consider to be our contribution to the campaign.

Regarding suggestions of campaign finance law violations, the spokesperson said the company “has been completely transparent about our simultaneous work on both political campaigns and political action committees”.

“We have strict firewall practices to ensure no coordination between regulated groups, including the teams working on non-coordinated campaigns being physically separated, using different servers and being banned from communicating with each other,” they said.

Approached by Channel 4 News earlier this afternoon and asked had he ever used underhand tactics to swing elections, Nix answered “appearances can be deceptive”. At the time his suspension had not been announced.

“The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect, pending a full, independent investigation,” the company said in a statement this evening, regarding Nix’s suspension.

In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.
We have asked Dr Alexander Tayler to serve as acting CEO while an independent investigation is launched to review those comments and allegations.
We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.

“The Board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr. Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients,” it concluded.

Read: Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner “following up” with Facebook over Cambridge Analytica

Read: One killed after Red Arrows plane crashes at RAF base

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