- Top officials obtained the first concrete evidence of foreign interference in the 2020 election cycle, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced Wednesday.
- Ratcliffe said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration information for the purpose of meddling in the election.
- Officials also said that Iran was specifically responsible for a slew of email spoofs sent to voters, including emails sent to Democratic voters in four states on Tuesday threatening them to vote for Trump “or else.”
- Many condemned Radcliffe for claiming that Iran sent the emails to hurt President Trump and downplaying Russia’s role in election interference.
- Other’s also accused him of selectively declassifying intelligence to benefit Trump’s campaign.
U.S. Officials Announce Election Interference
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced Wednesday that Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration information that could be used to disrupt the election, marking the first time top officials have provided concrete evidence of international interference in this election cycle.
“We have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately by Russia,” Ratcliffe said in a last-minute press briefing. “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.”
Ratcliffe also specifically claimed that Iran was behind a string of spoofed emails, including threatening messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four states earlier this week. Those emails, which were sent from a domain associated with the far-right group the Proud Boys, claimed to have “gained access into the entire voting infrastructure.” The messages also told recipients if they did not vote for President Donald Trump the group would “come after” them.
The Proud Boys denied any involvement, and Radcliffe’s announcement appears to support that. Notably, both Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray, who also spoke at the press conference, did not indicate that either foreign country had hacked into election infrastructure or voter registration systems. They also did not say that any election results or voter registration information had been changed.
In fact, intelligence officials who spoke to reporters said that the data they claimed both Iran and Russia and Iran had obtained was largely public, such as the names, party affiliations, and some basic contact info of registered voters.
That information, Ratcliffe said, was also used by Iran to email a video “that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas.” He added that both emails were “designed to intimidate voters, insight social unrest, and damage President Trump.”
“Although we have not seen the same actions from Russia, we are aware that they have obtained some voter information just as they did in 2016,” he continued.
Shortly after Ratcliffe’s announcement, Google appeared to back up some of his claims about Iran. In a statement, the company confirmed that it had detected around 25,000 emails that targeted users as part of what it described as an Iran-linked disinformation campaign. Google added that about 10%, or 2,500 emails, had slipped through their spam filters.
But many people still had serious issues with Ratcliffe’s characterizations of the situation and dredged up past criticisms of him.
Many Democrats and former intelligence officials have accused Ratcliffe — who is supposed to be apolitical in his role of DNI — of being a Trump loyalist who has used his position to promote the president’s political agenda.
Those allegations are specifically concerning when it comes to foreign interference in the election because Ratcliffe has both actively spread information that the intelligence community had deemed to be false regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election. and has promoted debunked conspiracies about the following investigation.
Beyond that, the DNI has also explicitly been accused of selectively declassifying intelligence pertaining to election interference to help the Trump campaign. In fact, earlier this month, many former top officials condemned him for doing just that when he released intelligence about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign that was not only unverified but also, according to intelligence experts, may have been Russian disinformation.
As a result, many condemned Ratcliffe’s announcement Wednesday as yet another example of him publicizing information to benefit Trump, specifically pointing to his claims that Iran sent the emails to “damage” the president.
Unpacking Ratcliffe’s Claims
It is true that since August, intelligence officials have said that Iran opposes Trump’s re-election. Still, Ratcliffe provided no evidence for the claim that Iran was trying to explicitly hurt Trump. On the contrary, many others have said the current evidence indicates that the country is simply trying to create general chaos and distrust.
Many pointed to the fact that the emails reported Tuesday explicitly threatened Democratic voters, and while some did argue that it was an attempt to make the Proud Boys and Trump look bad, at the end of the day, it was still an attempt to dissuade Democrat voters from either voting blue or going to the polls entirely.
Bennett Ragan, the campaign manager for a Democratic State House candidate in Florida, who claimed he received both of the threatening emails, told The Washington Post that he believed the messages were sent to intimidate Democratic voters in one of the most contested swing states.
“When you have people who have a voter roll and then send off emails, they will make a big splash,” he said. “They will scare people. That is without a doubt the intent.”
Similarly, others also pointed to the video that Ratcliffe said Iran sent voters with disinformation about voting overseas. According to The Post, which reviewed the video, it consisted of “Trump making disparaging comments about mail-in voting, followed by a logo with the name of the Proud Boys,” then going on to document what is supposed to “appear as a hack of voting data in an effort to produce a fraudulent ballot.”
Regarding the video, critics of Radcliffe argued that it was not intended to make Trump look bad because it was an attempt to spread disinformation about fraud in mail-in balloting by drawing from false statements the president himself made to undermine confidence in voting systems.
This general idea about undermining confidence is also another reason used to dispute Ratcliffe’s claim that this was meant to hurt Trump. The president has spent months trying to undermine the election results. Critics argued that, as a result, these alleged attempts by foreign actors are just them playing off the distrust and discord the president has already created.
That idea was also echoed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Ny.) who said that based on a classified briefing he received, he “had the strong impression it was much rather to undermine confidence in elections and not aimed at any particular figure.”
“I’m surprised that DNI Ratcliffe said that at his press conference,” he added.
The official Twitter account for the House Homeland Security Committee also hit on a similar point, directly contradicting Ratcliffe, and calling his credibility into question.
“These election interference operations are clearly not meant to harm President Trump,” the committee tweeted. “Ratcliffe has TOO OFTEN politicized the Intelligence Community to carry water for the President.”
“You can’t emphasize one threat over another to suit the President’s ego,” it added.
To that point, many other people also accused Ratcliffe of playing down Russia’s role in election interference. In his announcement, Ratcliffe mostly focused on Iran and claimed that while Russia had the same information, they were not using it the same way. However, multiple U.S. officials who spoke anonymously to The Post “stressed that Russia still remained the major threat to the 2020 election.”
As for Iran and Russia, both have directly disputed the claims that they are interfering in the U.S. election. In a statement to the media, and Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the country strongly rejects “American officials’ repetitive, baseless and false claims.”
A spokesperson for Kremlin also denied Russia’s role in influencing the election in a similar statement.
“The accusations are poured out every day, they are all absolutely groundless, they are not based on anything, rather it is a tribute to the internal political processes associated with the upcoming election,” they said.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Trump Mocks Florida Gov. “Ron DeSanctimonious” Ahead of Possible 2024 Bid
The former president may announce a bid to take back the White House on Nov. 14, according to his inner circle.
Trump Concocts His Latest Nickname
From “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” to “Sleepy Joe” and “Crazy Bernie,” former president Donald Trump’s nicknames for his political opponents have been known for their punchy style, but Republicans found it hard to swallow his latest mouthful for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
“We’re winning big, big, big in the Republican Party for the nomination like nobody’s ever seen before,” he said Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania. “Trump at 71, Ron DeSanctimonious at 10%.”
The former president drew rebuke from some allies and conservative commentators for driving a wedge through the GOP three days before the midterm elections.
“DeSantis is an extremely effective conservative governor who has had real policy wins and real cultural wins,” tweeted The Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh. “Trump isn’t going to be able to take this one down with a dumb nickname. He better have more than that up his sleeve.”
“What an idiot,” wrote Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative. “DeSantis is a far more effective leader of the Right than Trump was, if, that is, you expect a leader to get a lot done, rather than just talking about it and owning the libs.”
In April 2021, Trump said he would “certainly” consider making DeSantis his running mate for a potential 2024 presidential bid. But as DeSantis established himself as a credible rival to Trump, their relationship grew colder.
Last September, sources told The Washington Post that Trump had called DeSantis “ungrateful” in conversations with advisors. The former president reportedly had not spoken with the governor in months.
The Party of Trump or DeSantis?
One day after his “DeSanctimonious” jab, Trump took to the stage in Florida to support Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R) reelection campaign but grabbed more attention when he seemed to endorse DeSantis for governor.
“The people of Florida are going to reelect the wonderful, the great friend of mine, Marco Rubio to the United States Senate, and you’re going to reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor of your state,” he said to the cheering crowd.
The brief moment of support was overshadowed, however, by the conspicuous absence of DeSantis himself.
Both men held competing, contemporaneous rallies in the same state hundreds of miles apart, and multiple sources told Politico that DeSantis was not invited to Trump’s event, nor did he ask to attend.
The governor has repeatedly refused to say whether he will make a run for the presidency in 2024, but national polling consistently puts Trump ahead of him among Republicans by a wide margin.
Some recent polls, however, have shown DeSantis to lead the former president in specific states like Florida and New Hampshire.
A survey last month found that 72% of GOP voters believe DeSantis should have a great or good deal of influence in the future direction of the party, while just 64% said the same about Trump.
Sources told Axios that Trump’s inner circle is discussing a Nov. 14 announcement for his presidential campaign, timing it to capitalize on the expected post-midterm euphoria as vote counts roll in.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (Politico)
The Midterms Are Tomorrow, But We May Not Have Results for a While. Here’s What You Need to Know
The counting of mail-in ballots and possible legal challenges will almost certainly slow the final results.
Election Delays Expected
As Americans gear up for Election Day on Nov. 8, experts are warning that many races, including some of the most highly anticipated ones, may not have the final results in for days or even weeks.
These delays are completely normal and do not indicate that election fraud or issues with vote counting took place. However, like in 2020, former President Donald Trump and other election-denying Republicans could seize on the slow-coming returns to promote false claims to that effect.
There are a number of very legitimate reasons why it could take some time before the final results are solidified. Each state has different rules for carrying out the election process, like when polls close and when ballots can start being counted.
There are also varying rules for when mail-in ballots can be received and counted that can extend when those votes will be tallied. That lag could seriously skew early results in many places because there has been a major rise in the number of people voting by mail.
Red Mirage, Blue Mirage
One very important thing to note is that the early returns seen on election night may not be representative of the final outcomes.
In 2020, there was a lot of talk about a “red mirage,” which is when ballots cast on election day and favoring Republicans are reported first while mail-in ballots used more by Democrats are counted later, creating the appearance that Republicans have a much wider lead.
That phenomenon may very well take place in several key battlegrounds that not only could decide the House and the Senate but also have incredibly consequential state-wide elections of their own.
For example, in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, election officials cannot start counting mail-in and absentee ballots until Election Day.
Some experts have also speculated that a similar occurrence could occur in Georiga because the suburbs — which have shifted blue in recent years — report their results later than rural counties.
At the same time, there are also some states where the opposite might happen: a blue mirage that makes it seem like Democrats are doing better than they actually are.
Such a scenario is possible in Arizona, where election officials can process mail-in ballots as soon as they receive them, and where a similar trend played out in 2020.
Other Possible Slow-Downs
Beyond all that, there are a number of other factors that could delay when results are finalized.
For example, in Georgia, candidates need to get at least 50% of the vote to win, and if none do, then the top two are sent to a run-off election on Dec. 6. That is a very real possibility for the state’s closely-watched Senate race because there is a libertarian on the ballot who could siphon enough votes from Republican Herschel Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock to keep them both below the 50% threshold.
In other words: if control of the Senate comes down to Georgia again — as it did in 2020 and which is a very real possibility — voters may not know the outcome until a month after the election.
Meanwhile, experts also say that legal battles over mail-in ballots could further delay results, or even go to the Supreme Court. According to The New York Times, before Election Day, over 100 lawsuits had already been filed.
In Pennsylvania, for example, the State Supreme Court ruled last week in favor of a lawsuit from Republican groups requesting that mail-in ballots that did not have dates on outer envelopes be invalidated, causing thousands of ballots to be set aside. Multiple rights groups are now suing to get that decision reversed.
DHS Confirms Paul Pelosi Attacker is a Canadian National in the U.S. Illegally
The suspect espoused many political conspiracy theories promoted by the American far-right and told investigators he wished to harm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to send a message to other U.S. politicians.
Pelosi Attacker’s Immigration Issues
The man accused of attacking Paul Pelosi and trying to kidnap House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) is a Canadian national currently residing in the United States illegally, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) late Wednesday.
Law enforcement officials say the suspect embraced far-right conspiracies about U.S. politicians and told investigators he wanted to break the House Speaker’s kneecaps as a lesson to other members of Congress.
Despite his lack of citizenship, the man also allegedly told police he was on a “suicide mission” and had a list of state and federal lawmakers he wanted to target.
In its statement to the media, DHS said that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had lodged a “detainer” on the suspect, which is a notice the agency intends to take custody of an individual who could be deported and requests it be notified before that person is released. The detainer, however, likely will not impact the case against him, because deportations are civil proceedings that happen after criminal cases are resolved.
According to several reports, federal records indicate the suspect came to the U.S. legally via Mexico in March 2008. Canadians who travel to America for business or pleasure are usually able to stay in the country for six months without a visa. DHS told The Washington Post the Canadian citizen was admitted as a “temporary visitor” traveling for pleasure.
Before the confirmation from DHS, there was some mixed reporting on how long the suspected attacker has been in America. On Monday, an anonymous U.S. official told the Associated Press the man had legally entered in 2000 but stayed way after his visa expired.
One day later, The New York Times reported he was registered to vote in San Francisco County from 2002 to 2009, and even voted once in 2002.
Heightened Security Concerns
The new revelation comes as lawmakers are facing increased threats, prompting conversations about safety and security with a specific focus on the role of the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP).
On Tuesday, multiple outlets reported that USCP security cameras trained on the Pelosi’s house actually captured the attack, but no one was watching. In a statement Wednesday, the agency said its command center has access to around 1,800 cameras and not all are watched constantly.
The Capitol Police also said that the Pelosi’s home is “actively” monitored “around the clock” when the Speaker is there, but not when she is in Washington.
As a result, many argued that there should be more security and surveillance for the second person in line for the presidency — especially given the threat of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection and warnings from law enforcement ahead of the midterms.
That was echoed in a scathing letter yesterday sent to Capitol Police by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Ca.), who is one of the most senior Democrats in Congress and heads the Administration Committee.
In her letter, Lofgren noted that the agency “has previously reported to the committee that the speaker receives the most threats of any member of Congress,” and asked why that protection was not extended “to the spouses and/or other family members of the congressional leaders in the presidential line of succession.”
She questioned why the USCP had turned down an offer from the FBI for some of its officers to be part of terrorism task forces investigating threats against Congressmembers and why it had not made a formal agreement with San Francisco police for a car to be posted at the Pelosi’s home 24-hours a day as had been done in the months after Jan. 6.
Lofgren also inquired why the Capitol Police did not direct more threats against lawmakers for prosecution. She noted that members of Congress received at least 9,625 threats in 2021, but just 217 were referred.
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