Secret recordings have captured the chief executive of under-fire data firm Cambridge Analytica boasting of the firm’s pivotal role in securing US President Donald Trump’s election victory.
Captured by a Channel 4 journalist posing as a fixer for a wealthy Sri Lankan family seeking to get candidates elected, Alexander Nix claims his firm ran “all” the elements of the Trump campaign.
He says: “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.”
In the footage – due to be broadcast on Tuesday night in the third part of Channel 4’s investigation in to the company – he reveals how his team used a self-destructing email system that leaves no trace.
He was recorded saying: “No-one knows we have it, and secondly we set our… emails with a self-destruct timer… So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear.
“There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”
Mr Nix was also recorded explaining how Cambridge Analytica sets up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages on to social media.
He mocks representatives on the US’s House Intelligence Committee, to whom he gave evidence in 2017.
In the footage, he claims Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”
He adds “They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works,” and claims that Democrats on the Committee are motivated by “sour grapes”.
He further claims the firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients, saying: “I’m absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction… We’ll say none of your business.”
Mr Nix also states that the candidates are never told what is going on, agreeing that they are “puppets” in the hands of their campaign team.
The meetings involved Mr Nix, along with Mark Turnbull who is managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s Political Global division, and Dr Alex Tayler, the company’s chief data scientist.
They were recorded discussing their two-pronged approach to campaigning, such as putting out positive messages through the official Donald Trump campaign, while negative material was put out through other organisations.
Dr Tayler says: “Campaigns are normally subject to limits about how much money they can raise. Whereas outside groups can raise an unlimited amount.
“So the campaign will use their finite resources for things like persuasion and mobilisation and then they leave the ‘air war’ they call it, like the negative attack ads to other affiliated groups.”
The company states that their work with data and research allowed Mr Trump to win with a narrow margin of “40,000 votes” in three states providing victory in the electoral college system, despite losing the popular vote by more than 3 million votes.
During a separate meeting, Mr Turnbull describes how, along with the official Trump campaign, the company created the “Defeat Crooked Hilary” brand of attack ads.
He said the ads were funded by the Make America Number 1 super-PAC and watched more than 30 million times during the campaign.
In an interview with defeated presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, which was filmed in 2017 while promoting her book, she described facing “a massive propaganda effort”.
She said: “So you’ve got CA, you’ve got the Republican National Committee which of course has always done data collection and analysis and you’ve got the Russians.
“And the real question is how did the Russians know how to target their messages so precisely to undecided voters in Wisconsin or Michigan or Pennsylvania – that is really the nub of the question.
“So if they were getting advice from say Cambridge Analytica or someone else about OK here are the 12 voters in this town in Wisconsin – that’s whose Facebook pages you need to be on to send these messages that indeed would be very disturbing.”
She also questioned whether Cambridge Analytica was involved in Russia’s alleged attempt to influence the election – something the company strongly denies.