Cambridge Analytica: Same Big Data, New Russia Ties
On the 27th of October 2017, US Senator Dianne Feinstein sent a letter requesting further information from Cambridge Analytica's custodian of records at their Washington office.
Though many of the names are now well known - such as the Trumps, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, and even Julian Assange - new research by emerging journalist Wendy Siegelman - who has worked on stories with me before - identifies new links between the Trump Campaign and the White House and further links to Russia in the already dense web.
"Feinstein set out specific requests for communications and information relating to social media voter targeting, officials in the US and Russian contacts, and hacked material."
In July, the Senate made written requests for information related to its investigation of the dismissal of FBI Director James Corney, allegations of "improper influence in law enforcement investigations" by the White House, and Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In an assessment made in January 2017 the United States Intelligence Community (USIC) set out Russia's use of social media in its hybrid campaign to influence the 2016 election in support of President Trump.
Feinstein recaps known facts, adding that: "Additional questions have emerged regarding the role that targeted messaging - the identification of voters or potential voters in certain key voting districts-may have played in Russia's influence campaign."
"It was also recently reported that Cambridge Analytica may have sought information directly from Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks -one of the entities responsible for distributing materials obtained as the result of cyberattacks on the computer systems of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta," she added.
Assange and Wikileaks are known Russian actors, most recently active in Catalonia.
Setting a deadline for response as November the 6th 2017, Feinstein set out specific requests for communications and information relating to social media voter targeting, officials in the US and Russian contacts, and hacked material.
Siegelman identified the previously unreported names as: Melissa Nathan, Amanda Miller, Tim Unes, Auria McAlicher, Jason Greenblatt, Johnny Yenason, Bob Forseman, Curt Weldon, Paul Erickson, and Ivan Timovfee (Timofeev).
Some of them provide new links to Russia, while others fill in some blanks around the close relationship between the Trump Campaign and the subsequent White House administration.
Melissa Nathan, according to her LinkedIn profile is currently a VP at Hiltzik Strategies, a New York based PR Firm.
In October 2016, the New York Times were trying to run a profile piece on Tiffany Trump and ran into some problems.
During this, they discovered Hiltzik Strategies were handling some of the communications for the Trump campaign and found themselves dealing directly with Nathan.
Nathan worked at Hiltzig with Hope Hicks, who was appointed as Trump's White House Communication Officer in September 2017.
Speaking to the Evening Standard, Nathan described Hicks as a "very well-liked and a highly regarded member of staff who most definitely forged friendships with all team members."
Next on the Senate list, Amanda Miller, is currently listed as VP of Marketing at the Trump Organisation.
According to profile pieces, including this by Patch, Miller started as a 15 year old waitress at a Trump golf course and later appeared on Celebrity Apprentice as the receptionist who watched contestants enter the board room.
Miller often appears to be cited as a spokesperson for the Trump Organisation. For example, in a Washington Post article about an investigation into financial irregularities surrounding a Trump golf course paying over $158,000 to Trump’s charitable foundation in a reimbursement of legal issues, Miller provided the official response.
Tim Unes is listed as the President of Event Strategies which, according to its website: "Provides cutting-edge event management and production services for clients and events of all types and sizes both in the United States and around the world - from press conferences to corporate conventions, from star-studded product launches to presidential campaigns."
Unes' company also states that, in 2016, its personnel managed and staffed the 130-person operations team for Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
The company adds that its former staff now hold prominent positions worldwide, including the White House Director of Advance and "senior officials at a wide array of government agencies."
Unes was brought to the campaign by Paul Manafort, now indicted over Russian ties and money laundering as part of a conspiracy against the United States. They had worked together in Ukraine, according to Bloomberg.
The charges against Manafort centre around tens of millions of dollars being laundered through pro-Russian Ukraine political activities between 2006 and 2016. They cleaned the money through "scores of United States and foreign corporations, partnerships, and bank accounts."
Manafort resigned from the Trump camapign in August 2016 amidst controversy over his Russian business ties.
Auria McAlicher was Director of Production for the Trump campaign and worked on the 58th Inaugural Committee, according to LinkedIn.
Jason Greenblatt is a lawyer who worked for twenty years at the Trump Organisation and is now the Middle East Peace Negotiator for Trump's White House.
Johnny Yenason met Aleksander Torshin and Maria Butina in March 2016 at a National Prayer Breakfast in Russia and invited them in May 2016 to speak at an NRA event in Kentucky.
The Daily Caller has reported it was Yenason's contact with the Russians which led him to reach out to the Trump Campaign via Rick Clay. This is the chain of events which led Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser and Trump’s son-in-law, to face harsh questions in the Senate over witholding his email exchanges about setting up a meeting.
Torshin, a Putin Ally, is a former Russian senator and the deputy chair of Russia's central bank, and Butina is described either as a central bank staffer, Torshin's assistant, a gun fanatic, or all three.
Bob Foresman previously worked as Deputy Chairman of Russia's Renaissance Capital and worked with Rosneft Chairman Igor Sechin for many years, some details of which are to be found within Wikileaks cables.
Foresman is on the board at East West, an NGO, and is a trustee of the Russian American Institute. He is also friends with Hilarion Alfeyev in the Russian Orthodox Church who is a chief emissary to US evangelicals, according to The Nation.
Curt Weldon is a former congressman with alleged deep ties to Russia, who served as co-chair of the Duma-Congress Study Group.
Paul Erickson is a Republican activist, advisor to the Trump transition team, and an NRA member with extensive ties to Russia and Maria Butina, all of which have been covered in depth by the Daily Beast.
Erickson attended Maria Butina's gun conference in 2015 with David Clarke and the host, Dmitry Rogozin - who was sanctioned by the US - according to Time.
The NRA dedicated substantial funds to supporting the Trump campaign.