Wednesday, May 16, 2018

FBI and Justice Department Investigating Cambridge Analytica

The New York Times dropped more potentially bad news for Donald Trump: the Justice Department and FBI are investigating right wing financially backed Cambridge Analytica.  In particular, scrutiny is being directed to the company's finances and bank accounts and also how it received the information taken from Facebook.  The obviously question is whether or not Russian Intelligence personnel   stole the data from Facebook and then provided it to Cambridge Analytica and ultimately the Trump campaign.  If the three main players were connected, then the case of collusion increases.  Here are highlights from the Times piece:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department and the F.B.I. are investigating Cambridge Analytica, the now-defunct political data firm, and have sought to question former employees and banks that handled its business, according to an American official and other people familiar with the inquiry.
Prosecutors have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, telling them that there is an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica — which worked on President Trump’s election and other Republican campaigns in 2016 — and “associated U.S. persons.” But the prosecutors provided few other details, and the inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators seeking an overview of the company and its business practices.
The investigation compounds the woes of a firm that has come under intense scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators in the United States and Britain. . . . 
This month, Cambridge Analytica announced that it would shut down and declare bankruptcy, saying that negative press and cascading federal and state investigations had driven away customers and made it impossible for the firm to remain in business.
Cambridge Analytica, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment.
[T]he firm found itself at the center of a trans-Atlantic furor after the Times and Observer articles appeared. It was then dealt another blow when a British news channel broadcast undercover video in which Alexander Nix, the company’s suspended chief executive, suggested that the company had used seduction and bribery to entrap politicians and influence foreign elections.
The federal investigation in the United States appears to focus on the company’s financial dealings — investigators have reached out to the company’s banks, for instance — and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources, according to the American official, who was briefed on the inquiry, and other people familiar with it.
In addition, the investigators have contacted Facebook, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. The official would not provide any other details, and Facebook declined to comment.
[T]he prosecutors involved is the assistant chief of the Justice Department’s securities and financial fraud division, Brian Kidd. The effort is being assisted by at least one agent who investigates cybercrime for the F.B.I., those people said.
The new company was overseen by Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, and then adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, both of whom went on to enjoy influential positions in Mr. Trump’s circle before the president’s break with Mr. Bannon this year.
Also in 2014, a contractor for the new firm used quiz apps and other programs to gather private profile information from as many as 87 million Facebook users, data former Cambridge employees said provided the critical basis for the new company’s voter profiles. The Times also reported in March that the company had sent personnel from Canada and Europe to work on various campaigns in the 2014 midterm elections and in 2016 campaigns, raising questions about Cambridge’s compliance with federal election law, which limits the involvement of non-citizens in election campaigns.

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