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Cambridge Analytica suspends CEO Alexander Nix

Man at centre of allegations about Facebook data breach is suspended pending full independent investigation

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO, suspended after data scandal” was written by Ruth McKee, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 20th March 2018 21.51 UTC

Alexander Nix, the CEO of Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the heart of the data-mining scandal, has been suspended.

The company said in a statement: “The board of Cambridge Analytica has announced today that it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix with immediate effect pending a full, independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation.”

Name

Alexander James Ashburner Nix

Age

42

Education

Eton, then Manchester University, where he studied history of art

Career

Nix worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the company’s elections division, and claims to have worked on more than 40 campaigns globally. Many of SCL’s projects are secret, so that may be a low estimate. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from US hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. He has been both hailed as a visionary – featuring on Wired’s list of “25 Geniuses who are creating the future of business” – and derided as a snake oil salesman.

Controversies

Cambridge Analytica has come under scrutiny for its role in elections on both sides of the Atlantic, working on Brexit and Donald Trump’s election team. It is a key subject in two inquiries in the UK – by the Electoral Commission, into the firm’s possible role in the EU referendum, and the Information Commissioner’s Office, into data analytics for political purposes – and one in the US, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Trump-Russia collusion. The Observer revealed this week that the company had harvested millions of Facebook profiles of US voters, in one of the tech giant’s biggest ever data breaches, and used them to build a powerful software program to predict and influence choices at the ballot box. Emma Graham-Harrison

Cambridge Analytica said its chief data officer, Alexander Tayler, had been appointed acting chief executive while an investigation was carried out by Julian Malins QC, whose findings they would “share publicly in due course”.

“The board will be monitoring the situation closely, working closely with Dr Tayler, to ensure that Cambridge Analytica, in all of its operations, represents the firm’s values and delivers the highest-quality service to its clients.”

Arriving at Cambridge Analytica’s offices in New Oxford Street, London, on Tuesday, Nix told reporters “appearances can be deceptive” when asked about the Channel 4 News filming. Asked if the company would abandon its political work Nix gave no reply but firmly denied he had misled parliament when he gave evidence over its use of data, saying: “Absolutely not.”

He was seen leaving the office at 6.30pm through a fire exit door and did not answer questions as he got into a waiting black Mercedes.

In a series of secret recordings broadcast on Channel 4 News Nix claimed credit for the election of Donald Trump. He told an undercover reporter: “We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting. We ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.”

Revealing the firm’s system of erasing any digital footprint, he said they used a self-destruct email server.

He added: “No one knows we have it, and secondly we set our … emails with a self-destruct timer … So you send them and after they’ve been read, two hours later, they disappear. There’s no evidence, there’s no paper trail, there’s nothing.”

He was also recorded explaining how Cambridge Analytica set up proxy organisations to feed untraceable messages on to social media. And he mocked an investigation by the US House intelligence committee, to which he gave evidence in 2017. In the footage, he claimed Republican members asked just three questions. “After five minutes – done.”

He added: “They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works.” He claimed that Democrats on the committee were motivated by “sour grapes”.

He further boasted that the firm could avoid any US investigation into its foreign clients, saying: “I’m absolutely convinced that they have no jurisdiction … We’ll say none of your business.”

Nix added that the election candidates were never told what was going on, agreeing that they were “puppets” in the hands of their campaign teams.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Michael Avenatti charged with extortion, wire fraud in Los Angeles, New York

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UPDATE: Mark Geragos, an attorney for Colin Kaepernick, Jussie Smollett, and other celebrities, is an alleged co-conspirator in the scheme to extort Nike, according to the Wall Street Journal. He has not been charged.

(VICE News) — Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti has been arrested and charged with federal wire fraud and bank fraud in California as well as four counts of extortion in New York, prosecutors from two separate districts announced Monday.

Avenatti tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike, according to a federal complaint filed in New York’s Southern District. In a second, apparently unrelated case, Avenatti embezzled a client’s money to, in part, pay off expenses for his coffee business, Global Baristas US LLC, which operated Tully’s Coffee stores, according to federal prosecutors in California.

Avenatti purchased the coffee stores in 2013 with actor Patrick Dempsey, who sued Avenatti that same year to break their business partnership. The prosecutors in California also accused the lawyer of defrauding a bank with phony tax returns to obtain millions of dollars in loans.

Avenatti is facing 50 years in federal prison over the charges in California. He will have his initial court appearance in New York on Monday, and he’s scheduled to have another in California at a later date. His bail is currently set at $50,000.

In an attempt to extort money from Nike, Avenatti threatened to hold a press conference on the eve of Nike’s quarterly earnings call and announce allegations of misconduct by Nike employees, prosecutors said. “I’ll go take ten billion dollars off your client’s market cap,” Avenatti told Nike’s attorneys on March 19, according to the complaint. “I’m not f*cking around.”

Avenatti on Monday posted a tweet saying we would be holding a press conference to disclose a “major high school/college basketball scandal” perpetrated by Nike that he claimed to have uncovered. “This criminal conduct reaches the highest levels of Nike and involves some of the biggest names in college basketball,” Avenatti said in the tweet.

Read the federal complaint against Michael Avenatti in Southern District of New York below:

Read the federal complaint against Avenatti in the Central District of California:

Developing story…more to come…

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DOJ NOT SENDING ‘PRINCIPAL CONCLUSIONS’ OF MUELLER REPORT TO HILL TODAY

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 (CNN) — Attorney General William Barr is not sending the “principal conclusions” of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to lawmakers Saturday, multiple congressional sources and a Justice Department official told CNN.

But Barr conveyed to his team he still wants to get the conclusions to the Hill by this weekend, according to the Justice official.

Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein arrived at their Justice Department offices Saturday morning to work together, reviewing and analyzing Mueller’s confidential report, the official told CNN.

The official said that Barr and Rosenstein, along with a select few advisers, were still there as of Saturday afternoon.

The “principal conclusions” that Barr promised lawmakers will be derived from the special counsel’s report — a distillation of the main takeaways from the report, rather than a word-for-word summary.

The expectation, according to the official, continues to be that the document sent to Congress with the conclusions will also be made public.

Barr’s submission to Congress and the public is being eagerly anticipated on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, with lawmakers and the White House waiting to learn more about Mueller’s findings.

But the waiting game will continue for at least one more day now, after Mueller submitted his report to Barr on Friday.

Barr announced on Friday evening that Mueller had submitted his confidential report and that the 22-month special counsel investigation had concluded.

The end of the investigation also means that no more indictments are coming from the special counsel, according to a Justice Department official, which Republican allies of President Donald Trump say is a sign that the President will be vindicated by the Mueller report.

But a battle is brewing between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats over Mueller’s report. Democrats say the public needs to see Mueller’s full report for itself — and not a summarized version from Barr — and they are demanding that Mueller’s underlying evidence is provided to Capitol Hill.

House Democrats held a caucus-wide call Saturday afternoon to discuss the next steps for the House, which has its own sprawling set of Democratic-led investigations into Trump’s administration, finances and business already underway.

They renewed their demands for full transparency of the Mueller report, according to people on the call.

Democratic leaders circulated talking points to their members arguing that “the White House must not be allowed to interfere with the report’s release.”

The talking points include details about why they believe there’s precedent supporting the release of a report, pointing to the hiring of a special counsel in 1999 to investigate the 1993 incident in Waco, Texas. They also point to precedent involving the Justice Department providing 880,000 pages of internal material last year to the House as part of the GOP probe into the FBI’s Hillary Clinton investigation — as well as how the Justice Department provided records to the Hill over the Watergate probe.

“If necessary, Democrats would be prepared to use its subpoena authority to obtain the full report and underlying evidence as well as to obtain briefing and testimony from the Special Counsel, the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General and other necessary officials,” the talking points said.

On the call, which lasted roughly 35 minutes, Democrats argued that the public will is overwhelmingly on their side for full transparency, pointing to public opinion polls to make their case.

“Right now, we are in the mode (of) wanting to know the truth, wanting the facts so that our chairpersons and members of the committees can take a look into this going forward,” Pelosi said, according to a person on the call.

Mueller’s 22-month investigation led to charges against 37 defendants, seven guilty pleas and one conviction at trial, which included charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, national security adviser and personal attorney.

Allies of Trump have pointed to the fact that none of the indictments against the Trump associates were tied to any conspiracy to collude with Russia during the 2016 campaign.

It’s still not known what Mueller found with respect to the President, but the fact he was not subpoenaed for a sit down interview with the special counsel’s team is a significant triumph in itself for Trump and his legal team.

Barr wrote in his letter that throughout the investigation, Justice Department leaders never told the special counsel a proposed action should not be pursued.

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POLICE STONED AT FLASH MOB IN FRANKFURT

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A flash mob in Germany turned violent on Saturday as teenagers attacked and threw stones at police officers, authorities said.

About 600 youths gathered in Frankfurt on Saturday evening, before running up and down a popular shopping street “without taking any account of passers-by,” police said in a statement.

A 17-year-old then punched a police officer as he attempted to issue the flash mob’s organizer with a dispersal notice, causing the officer to be injured. As the teenager was arrested, other attendees began throwing stones at the officers.

“Due to his resistance, the teenager had to be brought to the ground. He suffered a minor injury, which was immediately treated on an outpatient medical basis,” police claimed.

They added that two male and one female police officers were hit by stones, with one being hit on the head.

Investigations have now begun into those responsible for the flash mob, and whether they will have to pay for damages incurred.

The event was being staged by two separate YouTubers and their fans, police added on Twitter.

It follows similar scenes in Berlin on Thursday, when fans at an event organizer by another YouTuber were arrested.

(CNN)

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