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'Never Trump' Lincoln Project appears to have helped spread Iranian disinformation

DNI Ratcliffe: We have "already seen spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump."

Updated: October 23, 2020 - 12:01am

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The Lincoln Project, a group of former Republicans who openly oppose President Trump, shared a message on social media that originated with an Iranian disinformation campaign seeking to influence the 2020 presidential election.

"The Proud Boys are attempting to scare voters away from the polls," read a tweet from the group. "This is punishable by up to a year in jail and a blatant attempt to prevent people from voting. Let's find them and make them famous." The tweet has since been deleted.

The post, which was retweeted more than 12,000 times, turned out to contain erroneous information. 

"The intimidation the tweet describes did not actually come from The Proud Boys, a group that many in the mainstream media have said President Trump supports," disrrn.com reported. "Rather, Iranian operatives sent emails to Democratic voters in several states, and claimed to be part of the Proud Boys, according to the Department of Homeland Security. The messages claimed that the group is 'in possession of all your information' and says that the recipient 'will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.'"

The Proud Boys are allegedly a white supremacist organization, but they deny that allegation, saying they formed to oppose the far-left Antifa, which Attorney General William Barr alleged has "instigated and carried out" acts of "domestic terrorism."

"These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters' confidence in our elections," Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, told USA Today.

The Lincoln Project was founded by George Conway, husband of former top Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, along with Steve Schmidt and John Weaver, both of whom worked for the late Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, and Rick Wilson, a media consultant. Jennifer Rubin, in a Washington Post op-ed, described the four founders as "some of the most prominent NeverTrump Republicans."

The Twitter post by the group came a day after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray announced that Iran and Russia are attempting to undermine the integrity of the 2020 election.

"We would like to alert the public that we have identified that two foreign actors, Iran and Russia, have taken specific actions to influence public opinion relating to our elections," Ratcliffe said Wednesday.

"To that end, we have already seen Iran send spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump," Ratcliffe said.

One source told The Federalist that Iran knew the liberal media would bite. 

"Media did exactly what Iran knew they would do," a senior intelligence official told the political website. "They assumed fake 'Proud Boys' e-mails were real, then used them to attack Trump. Some members of the media are doing Iran's job for them in spite of literally just being warned not to."

The site noted that PBS White House correspondent and MSNBC contributor Yamiche Alcindor peddled the disinformation.

Ratcliffe said both Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information on Americans, saying, "these actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries."

"We are not going to tolerate foreign interference in our elections or any criminal activity that threatens the sanctity of your vote or undermines public confidence in the outcome of the election," added FBI Director Wray.

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