Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Wednesday both Iran and Russia have obtained US voter registration information in an effort to interfere in the election, including Iran posing as the far-right group Proud Boys to send intimidating emails to voters.
"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," Ratcliffe said.
Iranians are responsible for a voter intimidation email campaign that was made to look like it came from the Proud Boys and was also spreading disinformation about voter fraud through a video linked in some of the emails.
"We have already seen Iran sending spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump," Ratcliffe added. "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 did not explain what he meant by his statement that the emails — which were sent to registered voters from "firstname.lastname@example.org" and warned recipients to "Vote for Trump or else!" — were intended to damage the President. The Twitter account for Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee responded to Ratcliffe's remark by saying: "DO NOT listen to Ratcliffe. Partisan hack." Ratcliffe has been accused by Democrats of working to further Trump's political aims by declassifying unverified intelligence.
A source in a Florida election office told CNN that during an FBI briefing Wednesday, agents told them the Proud Boy email threats about voting for Trump came from a nation state — and they are seeing them across the country. The source said the agents told them these emails "were not the work of a Florida guy in his basement."
Russia has not taken the same actions, Ratcliffe said, but has obtained some voter information, just as Moscow did in 2016.
Ratcliffe spoke alongside FBI Director Chris Wray at a hastily arranged news conference on Wednesday evening to announce the foreign election interference.
Watch the moment: