The FBI are hunting for suspects after a series of explosive devices and suspicious packages were sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, a major news network and other Democrat officials.
Basic devices described as “pipe bombs” containing shards of glass were sent to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s house in New York and another sent to Barack Obama in Washington as well as to the New York offices of broadcaster CNN.
The announcement arrived just two days after a package containing a similar explosive device was discovered at the home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who lives in the same county as the Clintons.
The two packages to the Clintons and Mr Obama were intercepted before arriving at either residency, US Secret Service said in a statement. The package for the Clintons was discovered on Tuesday night, the one for Mr Obama on Wednesday morning.
The bombs, each with a small battery, were about 6in long and packed with powder and broken glass, according to a law enforcement official who had seen X-ray images. The official said the devices were made from lengths of PVC pipe and covered with black tape.
The “live explosive” device delivered to CNN’s building was removed and sent for testing on Wednesday afternoon, alongside an envelope containing white powder that arrived with it. Law enforcement officials said the CNN device was similar to the one sent to Mr Soros
Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, described the attempted bombings as “an act of terror”.
Federal officials declined to discuss potential motives, but many of the individuals who were sent the packages all appeared to have at least one thing in common: their public criticisms of Donald Trump. The news of the bombs comes less than two weeks before crucial midterm Congressional elections.
Suspicious packages were also sent to California Democrat Maxine Waters, which was intercepted at a congressional mailing facility in Maryland, former CIA director John Brennan, whose name was on the CNN package, and former attorney general Eric Holder, whose package had been returned to former Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose Florida offices were listed on several of the packages’ return labels.
The FBI said that a number of the devices found so far were in matching envelopes with similar address labelling and stamps. Authorities warned that more packages may still be undiscovered.
Mr Trump said a “major federal investigation” had been launched with authorities looking into whether an individual or group were behind the devices.
“In these times, we have to unify, we have to come together, 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,” Mr Trump said
Mr Trump added: “We are extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning and we will get to the bottom of it.”
A number of Democrats said that Mr Trump needed to start unifying the country by tempering his own language. Even some from Mr Trump’s own party, such as Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake, said that the president needs to look at his tone and not refer to the press as the “enemy of the people”
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, the two most senior Democrats in the US Congress, later attacked Mr Trump’s call for unity, saying his words “ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence”.
At a rally in Wisconsin later in the evening, Mr Trump called on the media to play their part by not printing what he claimed was “false” stories.
“The media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and often times false attacks and stories,” the president said.
“Let’s get along,” he added. “By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight? Have you ever seen this?”
The Secret Service said it had already “initiated a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
The news spurred numerous evacuations nationwide, including at the Time Warner headquarters housing CNN’s New York newsroom, as well as Ms Wasserman Schultz’s offices, which reportedly received the package originally addressed to Mr Holder on Wednesday.
Outside the Time Warner Center, staff were shaken by the discovering of the explosive device. ”It’s like you work there, you’re not safe at home, you’re not safe anywhere,” said Catherine Diaz, 27, a CNN employee from Manhattan. ”It’s just scary not to know what’s going to happen after this.”
California Democrat Kamala Harris’ field offices were also evacuated, along with the San Diego Union Tribune, which shares the same building; however, a suspicious package discovered in the area was not addressed to the lawmaker and no longer considered a threat after a brief investigation.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s offices also received a suspicious package, a spokesperson confirmed Wednesday, though it did not appear to be connected to the series of explosives. Rather, the package included a thumb drive containing informative literature on the Proud Boys, a right-wing, all-male organisation.
None of the devices appeared to have detonated, and several explosives experts said they were “unimpressed” by the sophistication of the rudimentary devices — though several appeared to be functional.
FBI officials are reportedly working with local law enforcement to follow any leads in each case, and have been combing over surveillance footage to learn whether the package found at Mr Soros’ home was hand delivered or sent by mail.
The suspicious packages sent to Mr Soros — a major donor to the Democratic party — and former high-power Democratic leadership arrived during an especially tumultuous midterm election season, as both sides attempt to address an apparent lack of civility in the nationwide political discourse.
Ms Clinton was another who called for the country to come together. “It is a troubling time. It is a time of deep divisions,” she said. “We have to do everything we can to bring our country together”.
Additional reporting by Kristin Hugo
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