When the Russia question came up during a hearing at the British Parliament last month, Alexander Nix did not hesitate.
“We’ve never worked in Russia,” said Mr. Nix, head of a data consulting firm that advised the Trump campaign on targeting voters.
“As far as I’m aware, we’ve never worked for a Russian company,” Mr. Nix added. “We’ve never worked with a Russian organization in Russia or any other country, and we don’t have any relationship with Russia or Russian individuals.”
But Mr. Nix’s business did have some dealings with Russian interests, according to company documents and interviews.
Mr. Nix is a director of SCL Group, a British political and defense contractor, and chief executive of its American offshoot, Cambridge Analytica, which advised the Trump campaign. The firms’ employees, who often overlap, had contact in 2014 and 2015 with executives from Lukoil, the Russian oil giant.
Lukoil was interested in how data was used to target American voters, according to two former company insiders who said there were at least three meetings with Lukoil executives in London and Turkey. SCL and Lukoil denied that the talks were political in nature, and SCL also said there were no meetings in London.
The contacts took place as Cambridge Analytica was building a roster of Republican political clients in the United States — and harvesting the Facebook profiles of over 50 million users to develop tools it said could analyze voters’ behavior.
Cambridge Analytica also included extensive questions about Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, in surveys it was carrying out in American focus groups in 2014. It is not clear what — or which client — prompted the line of questioning, which asked for views on topics ranging from Mr. Putin’s popularity to Russian expansionism.
On two promotional documents obtained by The New York Times, SCL said it did business in Russia. In both documents, the country is highlighted on world maps that specify the…