U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that Iran and Russia have both tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.
Ratcliffe made the announcement at a news conference that also included Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray. The announcement came just two weeks before the Nov. 3 election day. It showed the level of concern among top U.S. officials about foreign attempts to influence the results of the 2020 presidential election.
"We have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately, by Russia," Ratcliffe said during the news conference.
Most of that voter registration information is available to the public. But Ratcliffe said government officials "have already seen Iran sending...emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump." Ratcliffe was speaking of emails sent Wednesday designed to look like they came from the pro-Trump Proud Boys group.
U.S. intelligence agencies had previously warned that Iran might interfere to hurt Trump and that Russia was trying to help him in the election.
Outside experts said that if Ratcliffe was correct, Iran would be trying to make Trump look bad by calling attention to support and threats by the Proud Boys. The group supports white nationalism and has ties to other hate groups.
Some of those emails contained a video that claimed to show how false ballots could be submitted. Ratcliffe said that claim was false. The emails are under investigation.
Alireza Miryousefi is a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations. He denied Iran has tried to interfere in the U.S. election. He said in a statement, "Iran has no interest in interfering in the U.S. election and no preference for the outcome."
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he disagreed with Ratcliffe that Iran was specifically trying to hurt Trump. He told the television network MSNBC, "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."
Trump administration spokesman Judd Deere said Trump has directed government agencies to fight "any attempts to interfere in U.S. elections." He added that "because of the great work of our law enforcement agencies we have stopped an attempt by America's adversaries to undermine our elections."
One intelligence source told Reuters that U.S. officials suspect the Iranian government was involved, but that the evidence does not yet prove it.
A second government source said U.S. officials have evidence that Russia and Iran had tried to hack into voter registration information in unidentified states. But the source added that the hacking may only have been aimed at avoiding payment for the information.
I'm Jonathan Evans.