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Emailed threats in Florida dry up as congressional delegation asks for FBI briefing

By Ana Ceballos and Samantha J. Gross, Miami Herald on

Published in Political News

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Threatening emails claiming to be from a pro-Trump group called the Proud Boys that were sent to voters in Florida and other states earlier this week appeared to have come to a halt after the FBI accused Iran and Russia of being behind attacks to influence the U.S. election.

But two Florida members of Congress are now requesting an FBI briefing for the Florida delegation and at least seven local election officials say they have not been given any information from authorities on the scope of the issue other than what has been publicly reported.

"This request is in direct response to reporting from your offices yesterday, October 21, 2020, that Iran and Russia have targeted voter registration data, including in the state of Florida," Florida Reps. Stephanie Murphy and Michael Waltz wrote in a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray. "According to multiple county Supervisor of Elections in Florida, 'spoofing,' or threatening emails have been sent to registered voters in Flagler County, Brevard County and Alachua County."

During a hastily called news conference Wednesday evening, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said Iran used the information to send emails to voters and that Iranian intelligence distributed a video that "implies individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas."

In Florida, hundreds of the emails were received by voters in at least six counties on Tuesday morning. The sender purported to be affiliated with the Proud Boys, a far-right group, and claimed to have the voters' personal information, ordering them to vote for President Donald Trump or "we will come after you." By Wednesday night, the U.S. government had concluded Iran was behind the effort — a swift turnaround that raised suspicion among some Democrats.

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The Miami Herald interviewed six Florida voters living in Sweden, Mexico, England, Germany and India, all of whom said they did not receive any emails or videos described by Ratcliffe.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, during a press conference Thursday, said the emails were simply an attempt to "get things in the zeitgeist with voters," not an attack on anyone's access to vote.

"It's something we take very seriously," DeSantis said. "We are concerned about China, Russia, Iran. Iran, what they were doing with these emails. ... It's still a terrorist regime and we don't want them to be involved in anything we are doing."

At the Collier County Supervisor of Elections office, staff members became aware of a video that may be the one Ratcliffe mentioned.

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