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Iran and Russia have obtained voter registration information that can be used to undermine confidence in the U.S. election system, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced at a press conference Wednesday evening.

Why it matters: The revelation comes roughly two weeks before Election Day. Ratcliffe said Iran has sent threatening emails to Democratic voters this week in states across the U.S. and spread videos claiming that people can vote more than once.

Context: Voters in Florida and Alaska reportedly received threatening emails claiming to be from the Proud Boys, a far-right group. Local law enforcement and elections officials turned the emails over to federal authorities, per the Washington Post.

  • William Evanina, the nation's top counterintelligence official, said in July that China, Russia and Iran present the most pressing threats for election interference in the 2020 presidential race.

What they're saying: "First, we have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately, by Russia," Ratcliffe said.

  • "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 spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite unrest and damage President Trump."
  • "Additionally Iran is distributing other content to include a video that implies individuals could cast fraudulent ballots even from overseas."
  • "These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries. Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine border confidence, know that our election systems are resilient and you can be confident your votes are secure."

FBI Director Chris Wray said the U.S. will impose costs on any foreign nations that interfere in the upcoming election.

  • "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.”

Leaders of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence issued a joint statement about threats to the U.S. election systems and infrastructure just prior to the conference.

  • “Our adversaries abroad seek to sow chaos and undermine voters’ belief in our democratic institutions, including the election systems and infrastructure that we rely on to record and properly report expressions of the voters’ will," acting committee chair Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and vice chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement.

Zoom out: Twitter and Facebook are both working with law enforcement while taking action to stop a small number of accounts over the matter. Facebook sources told Axios they stopped one fake account's attempts "to seed information related to what appears to be an influence operation primarily focused on spreading false claims via email."

  • Twitter said it worked with law enforcement officials and permanently suspended "a small number of accounts and limit the sharing of media specific to this coordinated campaign," a spokesperson told Axios Wednesday night.
  • "This attempt to manipulate American voters did not gain traction on Twitter. As Election Day approaches, we remain vigilant and are working to ensure our service is protected from both foreign and domestic attempts to undermine the public conversation. We’re grateful to the FBI for their partnership," the spokesperson added.

Go deeper: Trump and lawmakers react to intel alert

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details on Facebook's action.

Go deeper

Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as FBI director

FBI Director Christopher Wray at a virtual DOJ news briefing on Oct. 28. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/pool/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden plans to keep Christopher Wray as director of the FBI and has "confidence in the job he is doing," White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed in a tweet Thursday.

The big picture: Wray, who was nominated by former President Trump in 2017 after he fired former FBI Director James Comey, came under heavy criticism from Trump and his allies over the past year.

Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Jerome Powell. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / Getty Images

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

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