‘What the Heck Is This?’ Rachel Maddow Calls Out DNI Ratcliffe for Confusing Claim That Emails Threatening Dem Voters ‘Damaged Trump’
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow called out the inconsistencies and notable absences in Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe’s election security warning, which concluded that threatening emails sent to Democratic voters were part of an Iranian election interference plot to “damage President Trump.”
At the opening of her Wednesday night, show the MSNBC host dove right into breaking news about the 2020 election. During a hastily-called public announcement just 90 minutes earlier, Ratcliffe said that the FBI has concluded that emails targeting Democratic voters in four states — warning them to elect Trump or else face retribution — were part of a covert intimidation campaign by Iran. The emails in question were spoofed to look like they were sent from someone else, Ratcliffe noted, without mentioning the numerous reports of voters getting them from alleged self-identified members of the Proud Boys far right extremist group. But after providing no other evidence, Ratcliffe declared that this election interference efforts, focused on Democrats, was, in fact, an attempt to “damage President Trump.”
Maddow was not buying it.
“What we got at this odd not-press-conference was a written statement read aloud by Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who was recently appointed by President Trump,” Maddow recounted. “We got this drama, short notice press conference on election security, there is drama in that. But when it comes to what he actually communicated, frankly nobody actually knows what he was talking about.”
After playing a clip of the short and notably light-on-details briefing, Maddow expressed her frustration at Ratcliffe’s unsubstantiated assertion and FBI Director Christopher Wray’s likewise vague explanations.
“What are you talking about? Spit it out,” she said. “We assume what he’s talking about here is these intimidating ‘vote Trump or else’ emails that were sent to Democratic registered voters in Florida and in numerous other states, but maybe that’s not what he’s talking about. Why would you look at those ‘vote Trump or else’ emails and describe them as an effort to ‘damage President Trump?’ These are threatening emails literally telling Democratic registered voters that if they don’t vote for President Trump, a violent far right group of supporters will come after them and, by the way, they know where you live. How is that an effort to ‘damage President Trump?”
Maddow then rolled another clip from the briefing that said the FBI had also detected Russian election interference, without even the barest of descriptions of how or where.
“‘We are on top of this’ — but we are not going to say what ‘this’ is,” Maddow noted, before connecting the absurd logic behind Ratcliffe’s analysis. “We’re not going to say what Russia did at all. We’re going to characterize it as something that’s just like they did in 2016. We’re going to say that this attack that we are attributing to Iran, which we’re not going to describe was designed to hurt President Trump, but we think from public reporting that what they’re describing is an attack that was designed to hurt people who might vote against President Trump.”
“What the heck is this?” Maddow added, before alluding to former Republican Congressman Ratcliffe’s recent, highly controversial decision to declassify information in an apparent attempt to confirm President Donald Trump’s “Obamagate” narrative. “To be honest, I sort of expect this kind of mishigas from Director Ratcliffe given his track record thus far as DNI. But why did the FBI director stand there for this?”
And just minutes after Maddow’s segment ended, Trump himself seized on Ratcliffe’s claim that Iran was seeking to hurt his re-election chances, triumphantly tweeting out the news as vindication he would be tougher on one of the country’s main geopolitical foes.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2020
Watch the video above, via MSNBC.
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