DNI John Ratcliffe’s Remarks at Press Conference on Election Security

October 21, 2020

The President has instructed the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Communities to ensure the 2020 elections are the safest and most secure in our nation’s history.

We take that mandate and responsibility seriously. There is nothing more sacred in our republic than the fundamental, democratic principle of one-person, one vote.

It is our duty to ensure the sanctity of U.S. elections. That includes ensuring the security of voting systems. The Intelligence Community’s role is to identify threats and assess the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign adversaries.

Our duty also includes empowering the American people to understand information – or perhaps more accurately, disinformation – that they are seeing, particularly on the Internet, and make informed decisions for themselves.

With that in mind, 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.

First, we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran, and separately, by Russia. 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.

To that end, we have already seen Iran sending “spoofed” emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump. You may have seen some reporting on this in the last 24 hours, or you may have been one of the recipients.

Additionally, Iran is distributing other content, to include a video that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas. This video – and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots – are not true.

These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine voter confidence, know that our election systems are resilient, and you can be confident your votes are secure.

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.

Rest assured that we prepared for the possibility of actions by those hostile to democracy. The great women and men of the Intelligence Community caught this activity immediately, and our colleagues at FBI and DHS acted swiftly in response to the threat.

We are standing before you now to give you the confidence that we are on top of this and providing you with the most powerful weapon we have to combat these efforts: the truth. Information.

We ask every American to do their part to defend against those who wish us harm. The way you do that is quite simple: Do not allow these efforts to have their intended effect. If you receive an intimidating or manipulative email in your inbox, don’t be alarmed, and don’t spread it.

This is not a partisan issue.

I had conversations today with members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and there is complete unanimity in the U.S. government in our resolve to combat the enemies of freedom.

The President has instructed me to keep the public informed, as appropriate. You have my commitment that I will continue to do exactly that, with transparency and with candor.

We will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections and will continue to work with our many partners to disrupt, and impose cost and consequences on any adversary that attempts to interfere in our democratic processes. The efforts the President empowered us to put toward election security these last four years are working. I will now turn it over to my colleagues to address the activities.