Ratcliffe said during a Wednesday press conference that both Iran and Russia have attempted to influence U.S. voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election and have obtained some voter information.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” Ratcliffe said. He, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted that the U.S. would penalize any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 U.S. election and that the integrity of the vote is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
The emails sent to Democrats in battleground states such as Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Trump. The emails falsely purported to be from the far-right group Proud Boys and warned that “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote to reelect Trump.
A Google spokesperson told Fox News that it stopped “90% of the approximately 25,000 emails sent” to Gmail users as part of the Iranian campaign. Google also “removed one video file on Drive and one video on YouTube with fewer than 30 views, and terminated the associated Google accounts.”
Google is working with the FBI, law enforcement and others “to identify and remove any related content,” the spokesperson said.
“We’re not surprised Iran is behind the threatening emails,” Cybersecurity research firm Check Point Research told Fox News in a statement. “Intimidation is the name of their game. We’ve studied them closely over the years, and we know they’ve built a very sophisticated arsenal of cyber-espionage capabilities. We urge voters to closely monitor their inbox as election day fast approaches.”
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump in the contest against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, though he did not elaborate on how. It’s not the first time that the Trump administration has said Tehran is working against the Republican president.
An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content.”
Iranian officials have denied responsibility for the emails.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.