Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: Bannon ordered Putin messaging tests

WASHINGTON — Former Trump campaign manager and administration official Steve Bannon ordered Cambridge Analytica staff to test messaging around Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian expansion in 2014, Cambridge Analytica whisteblower Christopher Wylie told House Democrats this week.

“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 Bannons 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.

Wylie was a source for news reports indicating Cambridge Analytica improperly obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users. He briefed Democrats from the House intelligence committee on Wednesday.

Wylie also said Cambridge Analytica is a U.S. pass-through company with none of its own staff. All its work is done by U.K.-based SCL Group, according to Wylie, who added that Bannon said he wanted to use Cambridge Analytica to “discourage specific groups of people from voting — including people likely to vote Democratic.” He said Michael Flynn, the former Trump national security adviser, was a consultant for Cambridge Analytica at one point.

Bannon did not care if information spread by Cambridge Analytica was incorrect, Wylie said, because he was trying to win a “culture war.” He called Cambridge Analytica a “full service propaganda machine.”

House intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said the conversation offered additional insight for the lawmakers Russia investigation. “Mr. Wylie … added new detail to our understanding of Cambridge Analyticas outreach to Russian Lukoil, concerns over the oil giants relationship with Russian intelligence, its interest in Cambridge Analyticas ability to target U.S. voters through the firms datasets,” Schiff said in a statement. “In fact, Mr. Wylie testified that Cambridge Analyticas CEO [Alexander] Nix marketed Dr. Kogans research on the American electorate in his original outreach to Lukoil.” Schiff was referring to Aleksandr Kogan, the researcher whos come under fire for sharing Facebook user data with Cambridge Analytica.

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