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Feds brief lawmakers on foreign election interference efforts in Florida

By Ana Ceballos and Alex Daugherty, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In a classified briefing Friday, several Florida members of Congress were provided information about all known efforts of foreign interference in the 2020 election in Florida.

It was the first publicly known time Florida lawmakers were briefed on the matter since U.S. intelligence officials concluded last week that Iran and Russia had taken specific efforts to influence the election, including through hundreds of threatening emails sent to Florida voters earlier this month.

Lawmakers who attended the briefing — including U.S. Reps. Michael Waltz, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Donna Shalala — did not divulge details discussed at the classified briefing.

The briefing, led by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, took place remotely in different secure locations across the state. It covered all known forms of attacks and disinformation campaigns in Florida tied to foreign governments, according to a person familiar with the briefing who was not allowed to speak publicly about it.

"The public servants that work for the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, they care and they understand the threat to our democracy, and I know they are working hard," Murphy said at a news conference in Orlando following the briefing.

Soto, a Central Florida Democrat, said after the briefing that he continues to have a "high degree of confidence about the accuracy of Florida's election" and that federal law enforcement will inform the public about foreign interference efforts.

 

Murphy and Waltz, a Northeast Florida Republican, asked the FBI to brief the Florida congressional delegation after U.S. intelligence officials said last week that Iran and Russia had taken steps to influence the 2020 election, including in Florida.

The office of the Director of National Security John Ratcliffe initially turned down the request, citing a lack of "bandwidth prior to the election." But on Tuesday, the office reversed course, and agreed to brief lawmakers on Friday morning.

"It was initially denied, but they came around and we were glad to be able to get a little bit of time to get additional details about what exactly happened — at a classified level," Murphy said.

In Florida, hundreds of menacing emails were sent to voters in at least six Florida counties from a sender purported to be affiliated with the Proud Boys, a far-right pro-Trump group that denied involvement. The emails warned recipients to vote for Trump "or we will come after you."

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