The data firm whose work for Donald Trump's campaign attracted the interest of Robert Mueller's investigators has recently filed paperwork showing it had helped spread negative information about Qatar, NBC News has reported.
Qatar was targeted by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in a bitter propaganda battle in the run-up to their announcement of severing relations with Doha on June 5 last year, and they have continued to do so ever since.
The parent company of Cambridge Analytica filed documents with the US Justice Department's Foreign Agents Registration Unit disclosing $333,000 in payments by the UAE for a 2017 social media campaign linking the Qataris to terrorism. In June, US President Trump showed support to the aggressive Saudi and UAE stance against Qatar, and their decision to cut diplomatic ties.
The filing by SCL Social Limited is one of hundreds of new and supplemental FARA filings by US lobbyists and public relations firms since Special Counsel Mueller charged two Trump aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries.
The number of first-time filings like SCL Social Limited's rose 50% to 102 between 2016 and 2017, an NBC News analysis found. The number of supplemental filings, which include details about campaign donations, meetings and phone calls, more than doubled from 618 to 1,244 last year as lobbyists scrambled to avoid the same fate as some of Trump's associates and their business partners.
The flood of new filings provides a small window into the long-opaque industry of foreign lobbying in Washington in which money is spent by foreign governments to sway the opinions of the American public and US officials, most often against their adversaries.
The uptick, legal experts say, comes from a new awareness that a failure to disclose overseas political work could lead to federal charges.
In October, Mueller indicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates. They have pleaded not guilty. Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI. Included in his statement of offence was the finding by Mueller's team that Flynn made materially false statements in his FARA filings about his work on behalf of Turkey.
The $333,000 contract between SCL Social Limited and the National Media Council of the UAE included creating multiple ads on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media sites with the hashtag #boycottqatar, drawing ties between terrorism and Qatar.
SCL Social Limited spread the negative ads during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September.
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