Iran is taking steps to interfere in the U.S. presidential election, and Russia has obtained American voter information, national security officials announced Wednesday night.
“Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion related to our elections,” said Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe at a hastily scheduled press conference.
“First we have confirmed that some voter registriation information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said at the briefing, which comes less than two weeks before Election Day, and was scheduled less than an hour before then.
“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”
Specifically, Ratcliffe said, Iran has been sending “spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite unrest and damage President” Donald Trump.
Minutes before the press conference, The Washington Post reported that U.S. officials had warned state and local authorities that Iran had conducted a deceptive campaign to send threatening emails to Democratic voters while posing as members of the far-right group the Proud Boys.
A Homeland Security official also told the state and local election administrators on a call Wednesday that holes had been detected in their election websites, the Post reported.
The emails appeared to target Democrats using information from digital voter databases, according to the Post, which cited two U.S. officials.
The messages threatened recipients, some of whom were in swing states, to “vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the Post reported.
Before the press conference, the leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a joint statement about “threats from adversaries to U.S. election systems and infrastructure.”
Acting committee Chairman Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and the Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., said they “urge every American – including members of the media – to be cautious about believing or spreading unverified, sensational claims related to votes and voting.”
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.