‘Acts of terror’: pipe bombs sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, other top Democrats and CNN
- The devices sent to Clinton and Obama resembled a bomb sent to George Soros this week
- CNN released an image of what police called a live explosive that was sent to the broadcaster
Pipe bombs mailed to a string of high-profile Democrats - including Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama and the office of Democratic Representative Maxine Waters – as well as CNN’s New York newsroom led to a ramping up of security across New York City and Washington on Wednesday.
US President Donald Trump denounced the incidents, which all occurred within 24 hours, as terrorism, although he did not address the fact that all of the affected parties were frequent targets of his own public ire. The live device found at the CNN offices was addressed to ex-CIA Director John Brennan – a frequent guest on the cable news channel and a vocal critic of Trump.
The CNN newsroom on Columbus Circle was evacuated after the NYPD Bomb Squad was called to investigate a “pipe bomb with wires sticking out of it”, sources said. Authorities said an envelope containing an unidentified white power was stuffed inside the CNN package. Police said it contained a live explosive.
ABC News reported a similar package intended for Waters was intercepted Wednesday by Capitol Hill police, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was also sent a suspicious package.
This is the suspicious package received this morning at the Time Warner Center, which houses the CNN New York bureau.
Police say the package appeared to be a “live explosive device.” It has now been removed and taken to a NYPD facility in the Bronx. https://t.co/WMndoOPcym pic.twitter.com/s5PEmvgzpz
— CNN (@CNN) October 24, 2018
The return address on some of the packages was the office of Florida Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, head of the Democratic National Party during the last election. Another package landed in her office when the wrong address for ex-Attorney General Eric Holder was written on the plain manila shipping envelope along with her as the return address.
“There are a number of devices and a pattern,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference outside the Time Warner Building. “We wouldn’t be surprised if additional devices are sent.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement “condemning today’s attempted acts of domestic terrorism.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio used similar language.
“This clearly is an act of terror, attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence,” de Blasio said.
A report that another package went to Cuomo’s Manhattan office was erroneous, with police saying the right-wing group the Proud Boys had apparently delivered a thumb drive to the location. Officials told the news conference that there was no specific threat against any other location in the city at this time, and no injuries were reported.
“This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said. “We’re extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning, and we will get to the bottom of it.”
Trump, who routinely hurls insults at his political opponents while whipping up his political base, called this a time “to unify and come together.”
Authorities immediately announced plans for an increased police presence on the subways and streets in response to the bombs. Police across the city were told to expect extended shifts as a result of the letter bombs.
And patrols were increased at city locations connected to the Clintons, Obamas and billionaire liberal donor George Soros – who received a package with a bomb on Monday, officials said.
The NYPD, in a department-wide missive, urged all officers “to be alert for suspicious activity and unattended packages or bags.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called on politicians of both parties to stop with their attacks on the nation’s media.
“To all public officials, of all partisan affiliations, don’t encourage violence, hatred and attacks on the media,” said de Blasio. “You can disagree … but air your disagreements peacefully.”
CNN President Jeff Zucker said that the Manhattan offices were evacuated “out of an abundance of caution.” All of CNN’s other offices worldwide have been checked and no other suspicious packages have been found.
The US Secret Service reported that it intercepted mail bombs sent to the homes of the two ex-presidents. Cuomo said police checked on the Clinton residence in Chappaqua around 4.30am and found nothing was amiss.
Time Warner Center – where CNN's New York offices are located – was just evacuated. The alarm went off as @jimsciutto and @PoppyHarlowCNN were on air reporting the packages sent to the Clintons and Obamas. @ShimonPro reporting it was over "a suspicious package." pic.twitter.com/EYBsytil0o
— andrewkaczynski (@KFILE) October 24, 2018
Ex-president Bill Clinton was reportedly at the family’s suburban home at the time the package was identified at a Westchester County facility, and the package never reached the Clinton home. It was addressed to Hillary Clinton, according to police sources.
On Monday night, a pipe bomb was delivered to the mailbox of the Westchester County home belonging to philanthropist and left-wing benefactor Soros.
Police were also responding to a report of a suspicious package at the Open Society Foundation in Midtown Manhattan, which is connected to Soros.
“The NYPD is actively working with its federal partners in active investigations regarding explosive devices sent to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, businessman George Soros and CNN in Columbus Circle,” an NYPD source said Wednesday. The NYPD is a member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
The explosives sent to the Clintons, Obama and CNN were similar to the one found at Soros’ home, official sources said.
On Tuesday night, the Secret Service recovered a “suspicious package” addressed to Hillary Clinton. The explosive was inside a small shipping envelope with postage and was made to appear like a USPS package – much like the one that arrived at Soros’ home a day earlier, the source said.
On Wednesday morning, an explosive package was intercepted at the Washington, DC, home of the Obamas. It was not immediately disclosed if the package was similar to the ones sent to Soros and Clinton.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the US Secret Service said in a statement Wednesday. “The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
A photo released by CNN showed what appeared to be a pipe bomb and a brown manilla envelope that the broadcaster said had been sent to its offices.
An investigation into who sent the packages was underway.
“We are aware of a suspicious package found in the vicinity of the Clinton residence in Chappaqua, NY, and our JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) has engaged with our federal, state and local partners to investigate,” the FBI said on Twitter.
In a statement, the White House condemned “the attempted violent attacks recently made against president Obama, president Clinton, secretary Clinton, and other public figures”.
I agree wholeheartedly! https://t.co/ndzu0A30vU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
“These terrorising acts are despicable and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement that referred to the senders as “these cowards”.
It was not immediately clear whether Obama, who has kept a family base in Washington after leaving office so that his youngest daughter can finish high school, was at home when the package was found.
Top Republicans, including Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have sought for weeks now to cast the rising tide of public anger as actual acts of violence and a phenomenon to be laid at the feet of Democrats.
“I think we know who the culprits are here when it comes to the quality of discourse in the country, and it’s not coming from the Republican side of the aisle,” McConnell said in an Associated Press interview this month.
The contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh prompted fierce and occasionally personal protests targeting Republican on Capitol Hill. Republican Party leaders chided Democratic leaders, including Clinton and former attorney general Holder, for delivering remarks that they claimed encourage incivility and potential acts of violence.
But law enforcement has made arrests in recent incidents targeting members of both parties. A New York man was arrested in August for threatening two House Republican leaders; another New York man was arrested last week for threatening Republican Party senators over Kavanaugh’s nomination.
In April, a California man pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Representative Waters, a California Democrat. And a Florida man was arrested this month for posting threats on Facebook against Democrats and Republicans who opposed Kavanaugh.
The devices were sent out just months after a 23-year-old in the Austin, Texas, suburbs set off a string of package explosives in that region, killing two people and wounding several others. That bomber delivered some in person and sent others through the FedEx system, which enabled authorities to track him down.
Chi Li, 28, who works at a technology company near CNN’s building in New York, left to run an errand and came back to find the area closed off.
“I always think it’s so cool to be so close to CNN,” she said. “Maybe now everyone will stop calling them enemy of the people. ‘Fake news.’”
Suspicious letters and packages have been sent to numerous public figures, including President Trump’s children. Donald Trump Jnr, the president’s eldest son, tweeted: “As someone whose family has directly been the victim of these mail threats I condemn whoever did this regardless of party or ideology. This crap has to stop and I hope they end up in jail for a long time.”
A letter was sent to Trump Jr.’s home earlier this year that resulted in his wife going to the hospital. A man later pleaded guilty to sending threatening letters with white powder to Trump’s sons and other public figures.
Additional reporting by Associated Press, Bloomberg and Reuters