A new report claims the data firm had the hacked emails over a month before they were published by WikiLeaks — and that special counsel Mueller knows all about it.
Cambridge Analytica, the now-shuttered company that ran the Trump campaign's data operations, was reportedly in possession of hacked Democratic emails at least a month before they were published online by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The explosive revelation was reported by BBC correspondent Paul Wood, who has previously broken stories about Trump's long, sordid history of personal and financial dealings in Russia, as well as the Kremlin's efforts to help elect Trump in 2016.
Writing in the British magazine the Spectator, Wood described his communication with a lawyer who had been approached for advice by an employee of Cambridge Analytica, which filed for bankruptcy in May amid a growing international scandal.
During the course of that interaction, Wood said, the Cambridge Analytica employee revealed the data firm — which was hired by the Trump campaign in June 2016 to take over its digital operations — had come into possession of stolen Democratic emails "more than a month" in advance of their publication by WikiLeaks.
"An American lawyer I know told me that he was approached by a Cambridge Analytica employee after the election," Wood wrote. "They had had the Clinton emails more than a month before they were published by WikiLeaks."
U.S. intelligence agencies later concluded that the emails were stolen by hackers working for the Russian government.
According to Wood, the Cambridge Analytica employee asked what he should do with the information. The lawyer advised him to share everything with special counsel Robert Mueller.
If confirmed, this report would be the strongest evidence yet that Trump campaign officials may have had advanced knowledge of the Russian hacking operation — raising questions about whether and how the the campaign or its data company may have been involved in weaponizing and disseminating the stolen emails.
As Wood explained, one of Cambridge Analytica's specialities was microtargeting — a type of profiling that involves "individual messages tailored to individual voters, delivered by email, Facebook and Twitter."
"The US intelligence agencies believe that Russian internet 'troll factories' were also pushing out pro-Trump propaganda on social media: sometimes fake news, sometimes real news, such as the hacked contents of Clinton’s emails," he wrote.
"The question is whether this was done in coordination with the Trump campaign."
NBC News reported in February that Mueller is investigating this very possibility, "asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release."
Additionally, Mueller's team has asked questions about whether Trump had advanced knowledge of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails, and about the relationship between longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, according to NBC News.
The FBI is also investigating Cambridge Analytica's relationship with the Trump campaign, which includes multiple contacts with WikiLeaks and Assange.
Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix met face-to-face with Assange just after Trump’s inauguration to "discuss what happened during the United States election."
In October, Assange confirmed that Nix had reached out to him during the 2016 campaign in an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails. In yet another instance, Cambridge Analytica reportedly offered to assist WikiLeaks with the organization of emails that had been hacked from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.
It's not clear which set of hacked emails Wood is referring to in his latest report.
Assange first publicly revealed that he had obtained hacked emails related to Clinton on June 12, 2016, but WikiLeaks didn't start publishing anything until July 22, 2016 — three days before the Democratic National Convention. The DNC emails were the first to be released.
The first of Podesta's emails were published on Oct. 7, just hours after the infamous Access Hollywood video came out. The timing allowed the Trump campaign to divert attention away from the scandal engulfing Trump, which led to speculation that there may have been coordination between the campaign and WikiLeaks.
Notably, Russian propaganda outlet RT appeared to have advanced knowledge of some of the upcoming leaks. On at least two occasions — Oct. 13 and Oct. 22 — RT tweeted about an impending drop of Podesta emails shortly before WikiLeaks announced their release.
All of this aligns with Wood's latest report and lends credence to the idea that Cambridge Analytica may be a critical link connecting the Trump campaign to Russia's 2016 influence operation.
While Cambridge Analytica is now defunct, the shady data operatives are still hard at work, just under a new name.
At least four former Cambridge Analytica staffers are now employed by the new firm Data Propria, which has publicly acknowledged it is doing work for the Republican National Committee in 2018.
And despite denying any connection to the Trump 2020 campaign, those same operatives were caught discussing their plans for Trump's re-election effort.
No word yet on whether they plan to bring in WikiLeaks and the Kremlin as consultants this time around.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.