Cambridge Analytica’s Global Election Bombshell: Balance of PowerBy
The revelations of the apparent skulduggery that helped Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election keep sending shock waves across the political landscape.
On top of allegations of Russian meddling in the election come disclosures by the New York Times and the Guardian’s Observer that Cambridge Analytica, a political-advertising firm hired by Trump’s campaign, accessed and retained information on 50 million Facebook Inc. users without their permission and used it to psychoanalyze and target potential voters.
Then yesterday, U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 showed footage of Cambridge Analytica executives including CEO Alexander Nix talking about how the firm could use prostitutes and former spies to ensnare politicians and influence elections. They bragged about swaying votes in other countries such as Kenya. The U.K. Electoral Commission is also investigating what role the company may have played in the Brexit referendum.
Facebook’s attempts so far to tamp down the firestorm have backfired. Government officials in the U.S. and Europe are demanding answers from CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos is reportedly leaving and the company's shares have dropped.
The impact on Trump remains unclear. The Republican leading the House inquiry into Russian meddling said the disclosures, while concerning, wouldn’t stop him from shutting down the probe next week. Yet Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s separate Russia investigation continues.
Not tipping his hand| Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has remained noticeably silent amid growing Republican concerns that Trump may fire Mueller. The president’s three-day Twitter tirade against the Special Counsel culminated in the decision to hire a vocal critic of Mueller as the newest member of his legal team. Steven T. Dennis looks at the complicated balance McConnell must strike as he faces questions about the matter.
China’s trade promises | Premier Li Keqiang made further pledges to protect intellectual property and pursue balanced U.S.-China trade in a bid to ease tensions with Trump. But it’s unclear if those words alone will be enough to stop the White House from imposing tariffs worth as much as $60 billion on everything from consumer electronics to shoes and clothing made in China, as well as restrictions on Chinese investments in the U.S.
Xi warns on Taiwan| In a nationalistic speech marking the start of his second term, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that efforts to widen divisions with Taiwan would be “punished by history.” The remarks came just days after Trump signed legislation allowing U.S. high-level official visits to the democratically ruled island that China views as a province, risking inflaming tensions with Beijing.
Spending snag | U.S. Congressional Republicans’ attempts to cobble together a $1.2 trillion spending bill stalled late yesterday, pushing votes on the package closer to a Friday night deadline to stave off the third government shutdown of the year. Persistent disagreements over immigration, border security, tax breaks and a tunnel under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey have stymied the measure.
Saudi deals | In an exclusive interview with Erik Schatzker, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal reveals the deal he struck to leave the Ritz in Riyadh, where he was held for 83 days in a government roundup of alleged fraudsters, embezzlers, and money launderers. You can watch the video here. For a story on what Alwaleed's cousin, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may hope to achieve during a three-week cross-country tour of the U.S., click here.
And finally ... After Trump banned U.S. citizens from purchasing of the Venezuelan government’s new cryptocurrency, Bloomberg takes a closer look at how the lack of global coordination has led to cryptocurrency rules that vary widely by country. China, once a global hub for trading in digital assets, now leads the world in cracking down.
— With assistance by Caroline Alexander, and Daniel Ten Kate