The United States Intelligence Community (USIC) affirms Russian interference remains the greatest threat to the presidential election on Nov. 3 despite Trump administration efforts to focus the blame on Iran.
USIC officials said Russia, over the past few days, has hacked into state and local computer networks in attacks that might give the Russians more access to the U.S. voting infrastructure.
In parallel with this disclosure, officials of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday announced Russia's state hackers had hit dozens of state and local governments and aviation networks since September and continue to prowl networks.
Russian hackers had stolen data from at least two unidentified victims. Other officials said the Russian targets included voting-related systems, and that might have been collateral damage in the Russian cyberattacks.
It's been revealed American spies that successfully infiltrated Russian networks have discovered details of Russia's plans to interfere in the last leg of the presidential race or immediately after the election. USIC officials refused to detail what Russia exactly plans to do but did confirm Russian operations are intended to help President Donald Trump win reelection.
What's clear to USIC at this stage, however, is Russia intends to exacerbate disputes around the election, which Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden is expected to win. A closely fought election will increase the effectiveness of this Russian operation.
USIC said Russia might use their knowledge of U.S. computer systems to release false information or take steps sowing chaos and doubts about the integrity of the results. They said these Russian moves steps will support Trump's false claims the vote is "rigged" against him and that he can only be defeated if Biden cheats.
The USIC assessment is a slap to the face of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Ratcliffe, a Trump sycophant, who warned America the other day Iran and not Russia is the greater threat to the presidential election.
Ratcliffe focused his expose on Iranian meddling he asserts is meant to harm Trump. He said Iran is behind a series of threatening emails sent this week to Democratic voters.
He said the emails sent in the name of the right-wing domestic terrorist group, the Proud Boys, were "designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump."
"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," said Ratcliffe.
As for Russian interference, Ratcliffe, said although the U.S. Intelligence Community hasn't 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 are prepared."