Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe confirmed on Wednesday evening that the Islamic Republican of Iran — the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — interfered in the U.S. election to damage President Donald Trump by sending threatening emails to Democrat voters while posing as a right-wing group.
“The U.S. government has concluded that Iran was behind a series of threatening emails arriving this week in the inboxes of Democratic voters,” The Washington Post reported. “The emails claimed to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group supportive of President Trump, but appeared instead to be a deceptive campaign making use of a vulnerability in the organization’s online network.”
At a press conference, Ratcliffe said that intelligence officials have discovered that Iran and Russia have obtained “some voter registration information” and that officials have “already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump.”
“You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours or you may have even been one of the recipients of those emails,” Ratcliffe said. “Additionally, Iran is distributing other content to include a video that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas. This video and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots are not true. These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine voter confidence, know that our election systems are resilient and you can be confident your votes are secure.”
Ratcliffe said intelligence officials have “not seen the same actions from Russia” but noted that they are prepared to take action if Russia takes malicious action.
FBI Director Christopher Wray spoke after Ratcliffe, saying that the FBI is “the primary agency responsible for investigating malicious cyber activity against election infrastructure, malign foreign influence operations, and election related crimes like voter fraud and voter suppression or intimidation, and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.”
“At the FBI, we’ve been working closely with our intelligence community partners, as well as our other federal, state, and local partners to share information, bolster security, and identify and disrupt any threats,” Wray continued. “We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election. When we see indications of foreign interference or federal election crimes, we’re gonna aggressively investigate and work with our partners to quickly take appropriate action. We’re also coordinating with the private sector, both technology and social media companies, to make sure that their platforms aren’t used by foreign adversaries to spread disinformation and propaganda.”
In August, National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NSCS) Director William Evanina highlighted the threat posed to U.S. elections by Iran, noting that Iran wanted to “undermine” Trump’s re-election efforts.
“We assess that Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections,” Evanina said in a statement. “Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on on-line influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content. Tehran’s motivation to conduct such activities is, in part, driven by a perception that President Trump’s reelection would result in a continuation of U.S. pressure on Iran in an effort to foment regime change.”
This report has been updated to include additional information. A quote from CNN that was initially in the second paragraph has been replaced with a quote from The Washington Post.