Cambridge Analytica-Linked Data Company Behind Trump Phone-Canvassing Campaign

GOP-funded websites managed by data-mining firm Bridgetree, Inc. allowed users to canvass for Trump in key states such as Pennsylvania.

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In an effort to rally support for incumbent Donald J. Trump in the lead-up to election day, the Republican National Committee hired a data-harvesting firm whose services were once sought by Cambridge Analytica, the disgraced U.K. political consulting company behind Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign.

Bridgetree, Inc., based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, has been driving votes for Trump in battleground states going back as far as April this year, via the websites TrumpTalk.gop and TrumpTalk20.gop. The sites allowed users to “make calls to Americans across our great country” by “[turning] your computer into a anonymous phone system,” according to a Facebook post by Edwin Boyette, Vice Chair of Communications for the Hawaii Republican Party.

Once logged in, users were given access to a database of voter information (including full names, phone numbers, and addresses), then instructed to call voters to ask them to vote for Trump using scripted questions, such as “can President Trump […] count on you to vote early?” and “will you commit [to] vote absentee for President Trump?” Calls could be placed automatically from one voter to the next using the communications system LiveVox, with seemingly no oversight.

The sites were “Paid for by the Republican National Committee,” and directed users to “please contact us at gophelp@bridgetree.com.”

Here is a video tutorial by Bridgetree explaining the process for calling voters:

Bridgetree’s association with the two Trump Talk sites was first highlighted in a Twitter thread by disinformation researcher @DivestTrump. Bridgetree’s “advertised focus,” @DivestTrump notes, was “Operation Keystone,” a “massive grassroots […] phone-banking effort” in which “the fate of Pennsylvania” was said to “[hang] between the raging forces of good and the evil communists,” according to a pseudonymous post on TheDonald.win, named after the recently banned subreddit.

As of publication, Biden is leading in Pennsylvania with a clear path to the presidency.

Services listed on Bridgetree’s site include “NextGen microtargeting” and “data acquisition,” which involves “[multi-sourcing, combining and scraping data] in a unique manner that delivers the most accurate, robust and relevant information to deliver optimal results.” “Operation Keystone” is not listed among the site’s case studies.

A poorly reviewed app version of the Trump Talk service is currently available to download on the Google Play store. The app’s developers are listed as Bridgetree and Advantage, Inc., a Republican strategy firm based in Alexandria, VA, which has published an instruction manual on how to use the Trump Talk service.

Here are promotional screenshots of the app in action:

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Bridgetree’s association with Cambridge Analytica was brought to light in emails leaked by Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former business development director. In one email dated February 2, 2016, Bridgetree’s business development manager Tom Boschwitz told Cambridge Analytica he could provide data scraped from Facebook and other sources in service of Ted Cruz’s 2016 failed presidential bid. The recipient of that email, Matt Oczkowski — then Cambridge Analytica’s head of product — joined Trump’s 2020 campaign earlier this year.

Cambridge Analytica’s shady tactics in support of Trump’s 2016 campaign were exposed in an undercover investigation by Britain’s Channel 4, which determined that the company had scraped data from millions of profiles without users’ consent. The company later pleaded guilty to violating U.K. data laws.

Rudy Giuliani and the Alleged Assassination Threat: Don’t Miss This Weird Subplot in the Trump-Ukraine Scandal

• In May, Giuliani stooges Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman claimed they were forced to flee Ukraine after their lives were threatened by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who’d rebuffed the two men’s dirt-digging request re: the Bidens.

• On Twitter, Giuliani publicly pressured Ukraine’s president to prosecute Kolomoisky as a “test” of his commitment to Trump. Parnas and Fruman later sued Kolomoisky after taking Giuliani’s legal advice.

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Rudy Giuliani (source)

Donald J. Trump is facing the possibility of impeachment following allegations he tried to coerce Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into investigating a domestic political rival.

The alleged quid pro quo involves claims that Trump threatened to withhold $400 million in foreign aid unless Zelensky agreed to investigate 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as part of a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the origins of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier.

Biden, Trump falsely claimed, had sought the dismissal of Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general in order to protect his son from a criminal investigation into Ukrainian gas company Burisma, whose board the younger Biden sat on from April 2014 through early 2019.

The story escalated earlier this month when Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, clients of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, were arrested at Dulles International Airport trying to board a one-way flight to Ukraine. The two men, both foreign-born U.S. citizens, are accused of engaging in a complex campaign finance scheme “to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence.” The alleged scheme was first reported last year by Daily Beast political reporter Lachlan Markay (to read stories I co-authored with Lachlan, click here).

Lev Parnas (source)

Since their arrest, Parnas and Fruman’s exploits have headlined every major news outlet in America, not least for their ill-fated attempts to help Giuliani dig dirt on Trump’s political rivals. But there’s a weird subplot in this story that has largely gone unreported.

In May, Parnas and Fruman claimed they were forced to flee Ukraine after Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky threatened to have them assassinated. According to Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian service, the two men claimed that Kolomoisky was “preparing to kill” them after he promised to bring them “to the light of God” in an interview. As it happens, it’s not the first time Kolomoisky has been accused of ordering contract killings, among other misdeeds.

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Here is the relevant portion from that interview, in which Kolomoisky said that Parnas and Fruman — whom he described as Ostap Benders (a fictional conman from Russian literature) — had traveled to Israel to ask him “to communicate with Zelensky” about an undisclosed matter. Note Kolomoisky’s initial skepticism that the two men had any actual connection to Giuliani, as claimed.

There are two scams under investigation by the US. One seems to be Lev Parnas and the other [Igor Fruman]. And they go here Ukraine, collect money from people, tell them that they are close to Mr. Giuliani — and that they will resolve any question with [Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko]. Mr. Lutsenko does not even know it. And, I think, Mr. Giuliani doesn’t know about that either. Two Ostap Benders who walk between two countries and tell all sorts of things … And in the near future, believe me, we will bring these two “little ones” to the light of God. Lest they think … Remember these two names: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They came to Israel and told me how I needed to communicate with Zelensky. I said — I have nothing to do with Zelensky. After that, they disappeared — and then began all these provocations…

One day later, Giuliani tweeted the following:

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If you can’t read that, it says:

An American analyst describes Kolomoisky as “super dangerous.” The notorious oligarch returned from a long exile and immediately threatened and defamed two Americans, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They are my clients and I have advised them to press charges [emphasis added].

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) 18 May 2019

In another tweet one minute later, Giuliani attempted to publicly pressure the Ukrainian president into prosecuting Kolomoisky as a “test” of his commitment to Trump.

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If you can’t read that, it says:

This is a test for the Pres.-elect [Zelensky].He already has surrounded himself with some people that are enemies of Pres.Trump. Now this notorious oligarch is said to also have people around him. Kolomoisky should be prosecuted for the threat. Let’s see?It will tell us a lot about control?

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) May 18, 2019

A few days later, Kolomoisky gave an interview to Ukrainian news site Ukrainska Pravda, in which he clarified that Parnas and Fruman had in fact been seeking to strike a deal with Lutsenko to investigate the Bidens. Via The Washington Post, whose article on Kolomoisky’s involvement doesn’t go into detail about the alleged death threat:

“Look, there is Giuliani, and there [are] two clowns, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were milking the bull here. They are Giuliani’s clients,” Kolomoisky told the Ukrainska Pravda website. “They came here and told us that they would organize a meeting with Zelensky. They allegedly struck a deal with [Prosecutor-general Yuriy] Lutsenko about the fate of this criminal case – Burisma, [former vice president] Biden, meddling in the U.S. election and so on.”

Ihor Kolomoisky (source)

In July, Ukrainian attorney Alina Samarets filed a UAH 200 million (roughly $8 million) lawsuit on behalf of Parnas and Fruman, alleging that Kolomoisky had “damaged the honor, dignity and business reputation of two American citizens who are ‘respected businessmen in their country.'”

In comments to Radio Liberty, Parnas commented on the case:

It is all a lie that we are scammers, that we ask for money from someone, or that we have criminal cases in America … Why did he present such threats to us, such dangerous statements, I cannot explain, we are shocked. We fear for our lives. That’s why we wrote the statements. All we do is recommend our advocates. The lead lawyer is Rudy Giuliani [emphasis added].

Did Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman try to suppress Kolomoisky’s allegations by filing a frivolous lawsuit? What was Giuliani’s involvement in the case? Is the lawsuit ongoing? It’s unclear because nobody I contacted returned a request for comment.

I’ve requested a copy of any court documents related to the case and will post here if/when they become available.

Update, October 24, 2019: It appears the lawsuit has been settled after Kolomoisky countersued. Via Kolomoisky’s August 30 interview with Ukrainian news site, Censor.net:

I came from Israel to Ukraine. Two people who were somehow connected with Giuliani filed a criminal case against me in court, but I filed a counterclaim so that they no longer popped off. I think the reason is that some Americans came to Giuliani and said that this is what we are striving for, a certain oligarch is hindering us. Well, Giuliani said something there…

They needed a connection with Zelensky. They came to me by mistake, they were told that I can provide. [Former Ukrainian president Petro] Poroshenko said that Zelensky is someone’s puppet. Well, they obeyed this nonsense and ran to me: “Can I meet Zelensky?” Me: “You were mistaken with the address.” They were upset, offended, went to complain…

[But now] the conflict with Furman and Parnassus has been exhausted and will end with an amicable agreement.

BuzzFeed News reports that Giuliani does not appear to be replying to any requests for comments and, according to CNN, is currently shopping for a defence attorney. Early this morning, however — after I sent him a link to this post, and just a few minutes after I sent him a final invitation to comment — Giuliani tweeted the following from his iPhone:

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If you can’t read that, it says:

With all the Fake News let me make it clear that everything I did was to discover evidence to defend my client against false charges.Dems would be horrified by the attacks on me, if my client was a terrorist.But they don’t believe @realDonaldTrump has rights. Justice will prevail

— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 24, 2019