Manhunt continues for person behind nationwide mail-bomb plot

Posted at 5:20 AM, Oct 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-26 06:20:50-04

(RNN) – Authorities continue their nationwide search for whoever sent suspected explosive devices to high-profile Democrats, outspoken liberals and CNN over the past week, as part of what could be a politically motivated plot.

Ten mailed devices have been discovered so far, and the FBI warns more could be out there.

The intended targets have been vocal critics of President Donald Trump and his administration.

They include former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, Democratic U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, actor Robert De Niro, and former CIA Director John Brennan, whose package was sent care of CNN.

The first package, sent to Soros at his New York home, was discovered Monday. Authorities intercepted the remaining packages over the coming days, before they reached their targets.

The packages have all contained suspected explosives resembling crude pipe bombs. Investigators are examining them to see if they were meant to detonate, or simply to intimidate.

The FBI is warning Americans to remain vigilant, because the suspect could have mailed other potentially explosive packages that authorities haven’t uncovered.

The agency is asking for the public’s help in catching the person responsible. On Thursday, it released a statement describing the packages:

“The packages were mailed in manila envelopes with bubble wrap interior, and were affixed with computer-printed address labels and six Forever stamps. They had a return address of “DEBBIE WASSERMAN SHULTZ” [sic] in Florida. The packages, which are all similar in appearance and contain potentially destructive devices, are being sent for analysis at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.”

The FBI warned people not to touch any suspicious packages, but to call 911 or their local law enforcement agency.

Those with information about the case are asked to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

The investigation has led authorities to parts of southern Florida, including a postal facility in the city of Opa-locka, where officials believe some of the packages might have originated.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed on Thursday that some of the packages originated in Florida.

All 10 packages have return addresses for Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose district is in southern Florida.

The package meant for Eric Holder was forwarded to one of Wasserman Schultz’s offices because it was the return address.

By Wednesday night, authorities had intercepted packaged devices addressed to Holder, Obama, Clinton, Waters, Soros and Brennan.

The device meant for Brennan was sent to the Time Warner Center, which houses CNN’s New York City headquarters; the sender might have mistakenly thought Brennan works there.

Two packaged devices addressed to Biden were discovered Thursday, which appeared to match others sent to targets. Officials discovered them at post offices in Wilmington and New Castle, DE. 

Late Thursday night, a suspicious package was found at the Los Angeles office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but it was quickly determined to be safe, KCAL reported.

A mail clerk in the building had called police after seeing that “Santa Monica” was misspelled on the package, which turned out to be a manila envelope with a CD inside.

Packages containing the devices have had misspellings on their addresses, so the clerk thought the “Santa Monica” misspelling could have meant another potential explosive.

The Time Warner Center was also evacuated Thursday evening over unattended packages in the mall section of the building, only a day after it was evacuated over a suspected explosive meant for Brennan being delivered there.

The packages discovered in the Time Warner Center on Thursday were cleared by the NYPD shortly after being discovered.

A package addressed to De Niro at his company Tribeca Productions in New York was delivered Wednesday and reported to authorities early Thursday morning. It reportedly made it into the seventh floor of the building. The NYPD bomb squad removed it from the scene.

De Niro, like other potential bombing targets, has been a vocal critic of President Trump.

The list of potential victims reads like a list of Trump’s most notable critics or targets of his verbal attacks.

Immediately after the packages were discovered, Trump made a plea for national unity and urged Americans not to attack each other over political differences.

He changed his tone by Wednesday night, blaming the media for causing the widespread anger that potentially motivated the person who mailed the devices.

Even as the bomb squad was at work in New York Thursday morning, Trump took to Twitter to attack the media for what he called “purposely false and inaccurate reporting.” He offered no evidence to back his claims.

Meanwhile, critics have cited Trump’s frequent vitriolic attacks on his political opponents as a determining factor in the coarsening of American civil discourse.

On Thursday, Brennan tweeted back at Trump, writing: “Stop blaming others. Look in the mirror. Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, & encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful.”

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders has pushed back against assertions that the president was in any way culpable for the potential bombing attempts.

“The president is certainly not responsible for sending suspicious packages to someone no more than Bernie Sanders was responsible for a supporter of his shooting up a Republican baseball field practice last year,” she said Thursday.

Sanders referred to the shooting that badly injured Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and others. The shooter, James Hodgkinson, attacked the team because of their political views, his social media suggested.

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