The Director of National Intelligence wants you to know who the real victim is here.
In a hastily convened press conference Wednesday night, John Ratcliffe, the Trump appointed DNI, assured a worried American public that Donald Trump was the target of a voting intimidation campaign. The catch? The effort, allegedly run by Iran, threatened likely Joe Biden supporters. Got it?
The claim, for which Ratcliffe provided no evidence, was confusing on its face. He seemed to be referencing — although he did not specifically call it out by name — a series of threatening emails sent from likely spoofed accounts made to look like they belonged to the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated a hate group.
“We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump,” claimed Ratcliffe.
According to Motherboard, the emails to which Ratcliffe was presumably referring had the subject line “Vote for Trump or else!”
“You are currently registered as a Democrat, and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure,” read the email, as reported by Motherboard, in part. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.”
Apparently Ratcliffe — who Wired called “the least-qualified director of national intelligence in history” — believes those emails are designed to hurt Donald Trump in the lead up to the 2020 election. Perhaps Ratcliffe believes an association with white supremacists — who the president told to “stand by” — would tarnish Trump’s image. It’s hard to say.
Either way, Ratcliffe’s framing of the apparent voter suppression campaign caught many off guard.
“Did you even review the emails that @DHSgov officials say Iran sent,” wrote California Congressman Ted Lieu. “Those emails intimidate DEMOCRATS and warn them to vote for Trump. That hurts @JoeBiden. So is there another email you are referring to, or are you misleading the American people?”
Congressman Lieu wasn’t the only one scratching their head at Ratcliffe’s portrayal of the situation.
So the Iranians are sending threatening emails to Democrats telling them they are in danger if they don’t vote for Donald Trump and that is…. intended to hurt Donald Trump, per DNI Ratcliffe.
— Justin Hendrix (@justinhendrix) October 22, 2020
John Ratcliffe would like you to know that Iran sent out bogus e-mails from the Proud Boys to damage the incumbent president* by fooling people into thinking the president* is sympatico with white supremacists.
— Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) October 22, 2020
Notably, Ratcliffe has long drawn negative attention for playing politics in his role. In September, according to Politico, he “declassified a Russian intelligence assessment that was previously rejected by Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee as having no factual basis[.]”
The questionable information was, perhaps unsurprisingly, critical of former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.
Oh yeah, and the Daily Beast reported in May that his (now deleted) campaign’s official Twitter account followed a bunch of QAnon conspiracy believers.
So let’s recap. According to the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, who was nominated by Donald Trump (twice) before being confirmed by the Senate in a party-line vote in May, claimed Wednesday that Iran is attempting to intimidate (possibly Democratic) voters in order to hurt Donald Trump.
Well when you put it that way, it all sounds so straightforward.