Iran sent fake emails “designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President [Donald] Trump,” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told reporters Wednesday.

Hundreds of voters in Florida and across several states received emails appearing to come from the right-wing group the Proud Boys, which threatened to “come after” them unless they voted for Trump.

Former FBI agent and fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, Clint Watts, told CBS News that the emails are an effort “incite fear with one-to-one messaging.”

“They’re not trying to get people to vote for Trump,” he said. “They’re trying to scare people.”


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A spokesperson for Google said in a statement to CBS News that the company had “seen evidence that an operation linked to Iran sent inauthentic emails to people in the U.S. over the past 24 hours.”

“For Gmail users, our automated spam filters stopped 90% of the approximately 25,000 emails sent,” the statement read, adding that it had removed an associated video file from its servers.

Google said it had “referred the matter to the FBI and will continue to work with law enforcement and others in the industry to identify and remove any related content.”

Ratcliffe added that Iran had also spread misinformation in videos, claiming people could cast fraudulent ballots “even from overseas.”

That assertion is false, Ratcliffe said, calling the efforts “desperate attempts by desperate adversaries.”

Iran has rejected any charges of interference, with the spokesperson for the Islamic Republic’s mission to the United Nations, Alireza Miryousefi, calling the accusations “nothing more than another scenario to undermine voter confidence.”

“Iran does not interfere in other country’s elections,” Miryousefi tweeted. “The world has been witnessing U.S.’ own desperate public attempts to question the outcome of its own elections at the highest level.”

Iran still does not pose as large of a threat as Russia, several U.S. officials noted, particularly following reports earlier this week that Russian hackers had targeted state and local governments and aviation networks, successfully stealing data from at least two unidentified targets.

“It is concerning to me that the administration is willing to talk about what the Iranians are doing — supposedly to hurt Trump — than what the Russians are likely doing to help him,” Jeh Johnson, a former secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration, told the New York Times. “If the Russians have in fact breached voter registration data, then the American people deserve to know from their government what it believes the Russians are doing with that data.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) condemned both countries for their documented attempts at sowing discord.

“Iran & Russia are working to set us up for a post-election constitutional crisis by sowing doubt & confusion over legitimacy of the vote,” he wrote. “Be VERY suspicious of any sensationalist last minute attempts to create the impression that someone has altered or manipulated voting.”

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