Cambridge Analytica ex-employee agrees to interview with House Democrats

House Dems will interview Christopher Wylie, Cambridge Analytica's ex-employee.

March 20, 2018, 6:50 PM

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee will soon have the opportunity to question the former employee who helped reveal that a political data firm with ties to Donald Trump’s campaign used data collected from millions of Facebook profiles without permission to help its political messaging efforts during the 2016 presidential election.

Christopher Wylie, a former employee of the firm Cambridge Analytica confirmed to ABC News that he has accepted an invitation to appear for an interview with congressional investigators.

“One of the reasons why I’m speaking out is because I think that it’s really concerning that no one has really investigated Cambridge Analytica and its role in the 2016 election,” Wylie told ABC News in a recent interview.

On Monday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the top Democrat on the committee, invited Wylie and Russian-American researcher Aleksandr Kogan to appear for interviews following reports about the data harvesting efforts at Cambridge Analytica.

Wylie’s cooperation could be seen as a boon to Democrats seeking to continue their Russia investigation unilaterally after Republicans determined the committee had found no evidence of collusion.

The New York Times and The Observer of London first reported that Cambridge Analytica, beginning in 2014, used an app created by Kogan to harvest data from 50 million Facebook user profiles without permission, and used the data as part of its work profiling and targeting American voters.

Cambridge Analytica — which was financed in part by GOP donor Robert Mercer — was employed by Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign before working for the Trump campaign during the general election. Between July and December of 2016, the Trump campaign paid the firm more than $5.8 million for “data management” work during the election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission disbursement records.

Schiff, in a letter to Wylie’s attorney, said his accounts raise “serious questions about the veracity” of testimony from Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix – who spoke to the committee in December – and questions about the firm’s possible ties to Russia.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the leading Republican on the committee's Russia probe, called the revelations that Cambridge Analytica improperly harvested Facebook data "troubling" but said it was an issue between Facebook and the data firm.

Conaway said he did not think the issue was relevant to the Russia probe, but that it could fall under the committee's other oversight responsibilities.

Asked if Republicans would participate in an interview with Wylie, Conaway said he didn't anticipate it but said he's "always open to new information" related to the committee's oversight responsibilities.

Facebook acknowledged that its data was obtained for political purposes after the reports surfaced, though they claimed it had been obtained ostensibly for academic research purposes. It has since hired a digital forensics firm to verify whether the data obtained by Cambridge Analytica may still exist.

In a statement, Cambridge Analytica claimed it had deleted all the Facebook data and related information in cooperation with Facebook, and that it was not used as part of the company's work with the Trump presidential campaign. The company also denied that Wylie was a founding employee, as he has claimed in interviews.

Cambridge Analytica says it did not know the data was improperly obtained by a third party and that is was destroyed as soon as they learned of it.

The Trump campaign says they never used data from Cambridge Analytica.

"Personality targeted advertising was not carried out for this client either. The company has made this clear since 2016," the company said in a statement.

Cambridge Analytica announced Tuesday that it had suspended CEO Alexander Nix, pending an investigation into the data reports and British network Channel 4's release of several undercover videos of Nix boasting about the company using bribes and sex workers to blackmail politicians for their clients.

ABC News has not verified the claims made by Nix on camera in the Channel 4 reports.

Facebook is under pressure to explain the data breach and is facing calls for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify on Capitol Hill.

The Federal Trade Commission is also looking into the allegations of personal data misuse, a source familiar with the inquiry confirmed to ABC News.

“We remain strongly committed to protecting people’s information. We appreciate the opportunity to answer questions the FTC may have,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a statement.Facebook officials are scheduled to meet with several congressional committees about the data scandal on Wednesday.

“Mark, Sheryl and their teams are working around the clock to get all the facts and take the appropriate action moving forward, because they understand the seriousness of this issue," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "The entire company is outraged we were deceived. We are committed to vigorously enforcing our policies to protect people’s information and will take whatever steps are required to see that this happens.”

ABC News' James Longman contributed to this report.

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