TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The U.S. government on Wednesday night concluded that Iran and Russia have taken "specific actions to influence public opinion" in the 2020 election, including Iran sending "spoofed" emails that appear to be the ones sent to hundreds of Florida voters earlier this week.
"We have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately, by Russia. 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," Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said.
Iran has been sending the emails to registered voters and has distributed videos that imply individuals can cast fraudulent ballots, including while abroad, Ratfcliffe said. The "spoofed" emails were designed to incite social unrest and hurt President Donald Trump, he said.
"These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries," he told reporters.
The news conference came a day after hundreds of Florida voters in several counties received threatening emails from a group claiming to be the Proud Boys, a far-right group that denied involvement. Experts in disinformation said typos and false claims about public voting information in the messages hinted at a deceptive voter-intimidation campaign days ahead of Election Day.
Florida was among at least four states targeted; the others were Arizona, Pennsylvania and Alaska. Alachua, Collier, Brevard, Escambia and Citrus counties are among the Florida counties that reported emails to the FBI on Tuesday.
The FBI was investigating the emails Wednesday. Ratcliffe said the intelligence community caught the activity "immediately."
Digital forensic specialists confirmed to McClatchy and the Miami Herald that the emails came from a server in Estonia. But the location of the server did not show where the sender was.
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