Watchdog groups file criminal complaint against Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica and Bolton super PAC

Watchdog groups file criminal complaint against Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica and Bolton super PAC
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Two watchdog groups on Thursday filed a criminal complaint alleging that the Trump campaign and a super PAC controlled by President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral MORE's new national security adviser John Bolton worked with the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to violate a law preventing foreign nations from participating in U.S. elections.

In the complaint, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Democracy 21 allege that the John Bolton Super PAC, the Trump campaign and its former chairman Stephen Bannon were aware of Cambridge Analytica's nefarious activities.

"The law prohibits foreign nationals from participating, directly or indirectly, in elections in the United States," Noah Bookbinder, CREW's executive director, said in a statement.

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"What’s worse than the fact that it apparently happened in this case is that the people involved apparently knew they were breaking the law and continued to do so anyway," he added.

The complaint also names SCL Elections, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, and demands an investigation into whether Trump's campaign and Bolton's super PAC knew about alleged foreign activities when they worked with the firm.

The Washington Post reported this week that Cambridge Analytica had dozens of non-U.S. citizens provide advice and strategies for Republican political campaigns.

According to the Post, Cambridge Analytica's leadership, which included Bannon, were told of the restrictions on foreign participation in U.S. elections in a 2014 memo from a New York lawyer.

Cambridge Analytica has come under fire in recent weeks, after it was reported by The New York Times and the British newspaper The Observer that the firm may have improperly accessed the data of millions of Facebook users through an online personality quiz.

The episode has prompted calls for Facebook to explain how the consulting firm gained access to such data, with lawmakers demanding that the social media company's CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergTop antitrust Dem calls on FTC to probe Facebook's market dominance Conservatives face a tough fight as Big Tech's censorship expands Actually, consumers love Big Tech, even if they say they don't MORE testify.

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for Bolton, said in a statement that the super PAC only became aware of the allegations against Cambridge Analytica after media reports surfaced last month. 

"The John Bolton Super PAC was unaware of any allegations of impropriety by Cambridge Analytica until recent press reports," he said. "Moreover, in its agreement with the Super PAC, Cambridge Analytica represented that it had rights to use any data and that its use of that data was in compliance with applicable laws."

"No individuals at Cambridge Analytica, foreign or otherwise, made any strategic decision regarding election-related activities. Furthermore, John Bolton Super PAC hasn’t worked with Cambridge Analytica on any independent-expenditure effort since 2016, and the John Bolton Super PAC no longer uses any of the data provided by Cambridge Analytica."

--Updated on April 3 at 2:51 p.m.