Per Politico with a late breaking story sure to make people’s breakfast more interesting, a Cambridge Analytica whistleblower testified to House Democrats that Steven Bannon order Cambridge Analytica to “test message” Putin themes as far back as 2014.
Former Trump campaign CEO and White House chief strategist 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 Bannon’s 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.
Why would an American Alt-Right political operator want to gauge American responses to “Putin” and “Russian themes” back in 2014?
Don’t jump just yet. At first glance, I thought, “well, there you have some real evidence that collusion was always part of the plan.” But, in 2014, Bannon and the Mercers (Alt-Right mega-donors and owners of Cambridge) were in the Ted Cruz camp and not associated with Trump. So, this does not mean that Bannon, as part of the Trump campaign, measured American responses to Putin and Russian expansion, knowing that Trump would be Putin’s running-mate in 2016.
But, that doesn’t mean that the story doesn’t matter with respect to collusion.
We know that by 2014, Putin had decided to “interfere” with the 2016 election, wanting to degrade faith in our democratic tradition, divide people, and just vandalize as much procedure as possible. It is also likely that Putin had already either told Trump to run, or, “asked” Trump to run (depending on how much Putin held over Trump at the time, but it is very likely hard to say “no” when a man like Putin asks you to do something).
We also know that Steve Bannon committed himself to a mission, a “culture war” against Islam and multiculturalism, wanting a “War for the 21st Century” old school, east versus west, a modern crusade to make the world white, Christian and capitalist. We know this because Bannon said as much at the Vatican around the same time. And there is this interesting tid-bit:
Bannon did not care whether 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.”
Well, we know that if Putin heard about this “messaging” test – and he likely did, Putin would not be turned off by such techniques.We also know that Bannon would certainly have seen Putin as an “ally” in this culture war, no matter whom he associated himself with at that point.
The revelation does not prove collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign as of 2014. To me, it proves that “shared interests” made collusion nearly inevitable.
Trump likely thinks that because he never sat in a meeting or on the phone with Russians and said; “Why, yes, I would be happy to do your bidding as president if you would be so kind as to engineer a victory for me,” he is free of any “collusion concern.” Trump’s brain swims laps in the shallow end.
But, if some of Trump’s people, such as Bannon and Kushner, knew of Russia’s desire to “assist him” and utilized Russian services in a way that Trump near had to know, and if Putin’s Russia held enough “over Trump” – such as blackmail stuff, things like illegal loans or outright gifts, money-laundering, tax evasion (all those things tax returns tend to apply to), perhaps a video of Trump being bad in Moscow, if Putin held all that over Trump, and Trump chose to press ahead on those terms, knowing he was thoroughly compromised, that – in my mind – constitutes collusion in the worst sense.
The single lowest ranking judge in your county knows she cannot handle a case in which she has a conflict of interest, or she will lose her job. The President must disclose conflicts, too – even though there is no statute. Everyone “knows” a president cannot do his job if conflicted. No one ever needed to write it down. If Trump had disclosed “I cannot cross Russia or they will reveal that I am a criminal money-launderer and I had some kinky hookers do some bad things on a video they have,” then he wold immediately be deemed unfit to serve. If such material exists, he has violated the oath of his office, to “faithfully defend the constitution …” How can one be faithful when one’s first priority is to save oneself?
To get back to the main point, it is startling to learn that during the same year Russia committed to interfering here, certain Alt-Right leaders recognized the usefulness of Russian-centered policy, and that the stories used need not be true, for a culture war. We haven’t even mentioned Russian money entering Republican coffers early, via the NRA. These things strongly point in a single direction.
When you take “Evidence” as a class in law school, they speak of each piece of “evidence” as a brick. Seldom does a single piece of evidence build your case, you go brick by brick. Today, House Democrats were handed a brick likely coming from the foundation, even if the final plans had yet to be drafted. Key players knew they had the same “rough” designs. Mueller will tell us when and how they came about to build the final product.
As an aside, I keep referring to “House Democrats” because even though it was a committee hearing, no Republican believed it worth his time to show up and hear from a Cambridge whistle blower. The Republicans apparently don’t want to know if the country is compromised, or already know and are doing all they can to prevent you from knowing.