On Wednesday night, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) appeared for a sudden press conference where officials announced that Russia had taken specific action to influence the United States election in favor of President Donald Trump, while Iran had done the same for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Considering Russia's efforts in 2016, the announcement that Russia was once again working to undermine the election came as no surprise.
What was surprising was the evidence put forth by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe on how Iran was working to help Biden.
Ratcliffe presented emails claiming to be from the Proud Boys—the far-right militia whom Trump wouldn't denounce at the first presidential debate—sent to Democratic voters threatening them to vote for Donald Trump or the militia would "come after" them.
"We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails, designed to intimidate voters, insight social unrest, and damage President Trump."
One of the spoof emails is pictured below.
This is the email Iran sent to Democratic voters in swing states.
It reads: "You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you."
Now, Trump's lap dog, John Ratcliffe, is spinning that this is meant to HURT Trump.
Give me a break. pic.twitter.com/4Z0cXSt6iy
— Zac Petkanas (@Zac_Petkanas) October 21, 2020
The email reads in part:
"You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply. We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take this seriously if I were you."
Given Ratcliffe's documented loyalty to Trump and the contents of the email explicitly urging Democrats to vote for Trump, people were skeptical of the claim.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who received a classified briefing on the matter, said this briefing didn't convey that Iran was working to damage Trump.
"I did receive a classified briefing this afternoon on this, and so I can't discuss the details but I can tell you one thing it was clear to me, that the intent of Iran in this case, and Russia in many more cases is to … basically undermine confidence in our elections. This action I do not believe was aimed, from my surmise, was aimed at discrediting President Trump,"
People didn't readily believe Ratcliffe's assertion.
Multiple media organizations report that Iran sent intimidating emails to Dem voters to HELP @realDonaldTrump. Sure looks like @DNI_Ratcliffe lied to the American people when he called a hasty press conference to say Iran was hurting Trump, when the opponent appears to be true. https://t.co/2OpEYzAfoL
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) October 22, 2020
Exactly. This press conference was so odd...I felt like we were being gaslit. Iranian meddling seemed to be aimed at democratic voters. Not Trump. What about Russian interference? https://t.co/r6b2M4pk97
— Karen Hobert Flynn (@KHobertFlynn) October 22, 2020
How the hell is an email threatening violence to Democrats in swing states unless they vote for Trump meant to hurt him? It is 'sending the boys round' mob behaviour to subvert the US democracy and install a dictator. I'm guessing they're saying this because they got caught. 😡 https://t.co/bh2IZF8O6z
— Rebecca Bardess | Coach✨ | Writer🖋 | Podcaster🎙 (@rebeccabardess) October 22, 2020
TO CLARIFY: These election interference operations are clearly not meant to harm President Trump. Americans should listen to FBI Director Wray and CISA Director Krebs. Ratcliffe has TOO OFTEN politicized the Intelligence Community to carry water for the President. https://t.co/vZHI6Z35HU
— House Homeland Security Committee (@HomelandDems) October 22, 2020
Maybe last nights Ratcliffe show was just a part of the broader voter suppression effort from @realDonaldTrump Watching that warning, with no details, may make some reluctant to vote as it might expose personal details(it doesn't). There is no bottom for these guys.
— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) October 22, 2020
Two things can be true: Iran is attempting to interfere in the election (which shouldn't be a huge surprise to those following along, though these emails go beyond what we'd seen before); AND Ratcliffe/Trump admin is attempting to politicize that/create false equivalence w/Russia
— Laura Rosenberger (@rosenbergerlm) October 22, 2020
The announcement injected the upcoming election with even more urgency.
There is way too much on the line to sit this election out.
— Burgess Owens (@BurgessOwens) October 22, 2020
In light of last night's FBI statement, let's remember: Trump has publicly welcomed foreign election interference (Russia, China). He has privately demanded foreign assistance in smearing an opponent (Ukraine). The greatest threat to our election integrity remains Donald Trump.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 22, 2020
Nothing the FBI said changes the two things you need to know right now: the Proud Boys are a white supremacist neo-fascist gang, and Trump will do everything he can in the next 13 days to interfere with the election. Stay focused.
— Meena Harris (@meenaharris) October 22, 2020
The election is 12 days away, but early voting has already begun in at least 40 states.