Between August and November of 2020, Iranian nationals Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian allegedly targeted election websites in 11 states and obtained information from more than 100,000 American voters.
The pair then is alleged to have posed as members of the Proud Boys to send emails to Democrat voters, threatening them to vote for former President Donald Trump, according to an indictment.
Around the same time, Hosein and Kashian sent Facebook messages and emails while posing as Proud Boys to Trump administration officials, Republican Congress members, Trump campaign officials, and news organizations claiming that election infrastructure vulnerabilities were being exploited to change votes, according to the Justice Department.
When the incident was first reported in late October 2020, then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Chris Wray held a press conference announcing that Iran and Russia were identified as having taken actions to interfere in American elections. At the time, Ratcliffe said the move was designed to harm Trump’s campaign.
According to the Department of Justice, the alleged conspirators “engaged in an online voter intimidation campaign involving the dissemination of a threatening message” that purported to be from the Proud Boys to “tens of thousands of registered voters.” Those emails were distributed to registered Democrats, who were “threatened … with physical injury if they did not change their party affiliation and vote for President Trump,” the agency said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Thursday that the Department of Justice’s actions demonstrates that we will hold state-sponsored actors to account for attempting to undermine public confidence in the electoral process and U.S. institutions.”
“Today’s designations represent the collective efforts of the Department of the Treasury, the Department of State, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” Blinken continued to say. “The U.S. government took decisive and disruptive action against those seeking to interfere with the sanctity of our elections, including the FBI warning the public of the attempts ahead of the 2020 elections.”
Other than the indictments, the State Department said it is offering a $10 million reward for information on Kazemi’s and Kashian’s activities. The Department of Treasury also sanctioned the two individuals along with an Iranian cybersecurity firm.
“Treasury will continue to counter efforts to undermine the integrity of our election systems,” Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo said in the statement. “Today’s action underscores the U.S. government’s commitment to hold state-sponsored actors accountable for attempting to undermine public confidence in the electoral process and U.S. institutions.”