At least ten packages containing possible “destructive devices” were addressed to prominent Democrats this week, including two sent Thursday to former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro, according to the FBI. President Donald Trump said a “major federal investigation” is underway after the suspicious devices, a majority of which were intercepted or discovered Wednesday, were sent to their intended targets.
Trump made the comments at an event where he was scheduled to speak about the opioid crisis. The president said he had been briefed on the situation by federal law enforcement officials and the full weight of the government was behind the investigation.
“In these times, we have to unify, we have to come together,” Trump said. “And send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”
The packages were being inspected by “top explosive experts,” Trump said. In a statement, the FBI said the packages are being sent for analysis to the agency’s lab in Quantico, Virginia.
The agency said the five packages are similar in appearance and contained a return address for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office in Florida. Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat from Florida, was the former chair of the Democratic National Committee.
The return address misspelled the congresswoman’s name as “Shultz,” according to the FBI. The FBI confirmed that the packages identified as of Wednesday were addressed to George Soros, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Eric Holder. Late Wednesday, the FBI said it has confirmed two additional packages addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters that are similar in appearance to the other devices. On Thursday, the FBI said the package addressed to DeNiro in New York and two addressed to Biden in Delaware were similar to the ones seen the past two days.
The United States Secret Service intercepted the devices addressed to Obama and Clinton. In a statement, the agency said the package addressed to Clinton at her Westchester County home in New York was intercepted late Tuesday. A package addressed to Obama’s Washington D.C. residence was intercepted early Wednesday, the agency said. Bill Clinton was at the New York home when the package was discovered while Hillary Clinton was campaigning for Democrats in Florida, according to The Associated Press.
Mrs. Clinton appeared at a fundraiser for congressional candidate Donna Shalala Wednesday where she addressed the situation involving the explosive devices and thanked the men and women of the Secret Service.
Neither package reached Clinton or Obama and were intercepted during routing mail screending procedures as “potential explosive devices,” the agency said.
The package addressed to Brennan, the former CIA director, was sent to CNN’s headquarters in New York City. Brennan is actually a contracted analyst at NBC News, although the package’s street address was for the Time Warner Center in New York’s Columbus Circle, where CNN’s offices are. The package that was discovered in the CNN mailroom prompted an evacuation of the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle.
Speaking at an Austin event Wednesday night, Brennan said he’d “been contacted by folks in the security realm” who are investigating the explosives, but didn’t elaborate.
“If I and others are being targeted because we’re speaking out,” it’s “a very unfortunate turn of events,” he said.
CNN posted a photo of the suspicious package received in New York, which showed that the package had a return address of Wasserman Schultz’s office in Florida.
CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a note to New York employees that a suspicious package was recieived in the company mailroom. Zucker further said CNN is checking all bureaus around the world out of an abundance of caution, but no other devices have been found. The building had reopened as of late Wednesday afternoon.
After the situation in Manhattan was resolved, Zucker issued a statement calling out Trump for his repeated verbal attacks on the media and CNN, a network the president chides often as “fake news.”
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Zucker said. “The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
At a press conference, NYPD police commissioner James O’Neill said an explosive device and white powder was mailed to the CNN newsroom.
“We’ve see this before, we’ve seen worse, and we will not be intimidated,” O’Neill said. “There are no additional threats beyond that white powder.”
Two law enforcement officials said the CNN bomb was crude but operational. According to the New York Police Department, the bomb squad responded and secured the device, which appeared to be a “live explosive device.”
At the press conference in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a suspicious package had been reported at his Manhattan office. The NYPD later said the package has been cleared and it is unrelated to the other devices.
The package intended for Holder did not reach its intended destination and ended up going to Wasserman Schultz’s office in Florida, according to the FBI. In a statement. Wasserman Schultz said that her office in Sunrise was evacuated. Out of an abundance of caution, the congresswoman’s office in Aventura was also evacuated. A package delivered to that office was checked by police but determined to be safe and unrelated to the other packages.
“We will not be intimidated by this attempted act of violence,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This appalling attack on our democracy must be vigorously proescuted, and I am deeply disturbed by the way my name was used. Today, my staff and I will hug each other and our loved ones tightly, and tomorrow get back to work serving the people I was elected to represent.”
Yet another package addressed to the Washington, D.C., office of Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman from California, was referred to the FBI, Waters said in a statement. The FBI later confirmed there were two packages addressed to Waters.
“I am appreciative of the law enforcement entities who intercepted the package and are investigating this matter,” Waters said. “I unequivocally condemn any and all acts of violence and terror.”
The United States Capitol Police said in a statement that it responded to a report of a suspicious package addressed to a member of Congress at a mail screen facility around 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday.
The first suspicious device that is part of the FBI probe was sent to Soros on Monday. A law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the explosive discovered at Soros’ suburban New York compound on Monday was a pipe bomb.
CNN initially reported that a suspicious package containing a pipe bomb addressed to the White House was intercepted at Joint Base Bolling in Washington D.C. However, the Secret Service said it has only intercepted two packages and reports of a third package addressed to the White House were incorrect.
The FBI said it is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations and urged the public to be vigilant.
The agency said anyone with information can contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI or submit a tip online. The agency said anyone who sees suspicious activity that requires an immediate response should contact 911 or local law enforcement.
“We condemn the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.”
Sanders said in a follow-up statement that Trump and the administration were monitoring the situation closely.
“Our condemnation of these dispicable acts certainly includes threats made to CNN as well as current or former public servants,” Sanders said. “These cowardly acts are unacceptable and wont be tolerated.”
Vice President Mike Pence said in a tweet that the administration condemns the attempted attacks against the Clintons, Obama, CNN and others. Trump retweeted Pence, writing, “I agree wholeheartedly!”
Republican lawmakers also had harsh words.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said “those behind such reprehensible acts must be brought to justice.”
“Violence is never OK,” Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said in a tweet. “Reports of bombs sent to the homes of Obama, Clinton, and Soros are deeply, deeply disturbing. America is better than this. Political disagreements are fine, even healthy, but we should always be civil and respect each other’s humanity.”
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer thanked first responders, but said Trump’s words ring hollow “until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence.”
“Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions: expressing support for the Congressman who body-slammed a reporter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Charlottesville, his supporters at rallies who get violent with protestors, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people,” the statement said.
The Associated Press and Patch’s Brendan Krisel contributed to this report.
Lead photo via FBI