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Authorities: Devices sent to Obamas, Clintons, Soros, CNN appear linked

Packages with possible explosives sent to former President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., and to former first lady Hillary Clinton in Westchester County were intercepted Wednesday, the Secret Service said. Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes; News 12 Long Island

This story was reported by Tom Brune, Anthony M. DeStefano, Ivan Pereira, Robert Brodsky, Matthew Chayes, Candice Ferrette, Yancey Roy, Stefanie Dazio, Nicole Fuller and Ellen Yan. It was written by Yan.

Suspected pipe bombs were sent to former President Barack Obama, Hillary and Bill Clinton, the offices of CNN and other national figures in a string of unnerving developments spanning New York, Washington, D.C., Florida and California.

No one was injured but the devices sparked a massive investigation by the FBI, NYPD and Capitol Hill police, and President Donald Trump vowed to pursue those who commit such "acts or threats of political violence." Law enforcement agencies were taking apart the six similarly packaged devices to track down their source.

Three of the devices were seized in New York, where Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo warned that there may yet be others. Authorities in New York beefed up visible police presence at key infrastructure and Long Island police sought to reassure the public.

NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill on Wednesday evening called the investigation "open-ended," adding: "Last night we had one, and now we have six."   

And indeed, federal authorities said Wednesday night that there was a seventh package discovered in Los Angeles, one of two addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calfornia).

The first in the series was a small bomb found Monday night in the mailbox at the home of billionaire activist George Soros in Katonah in Westchester County. The U.S. Secret Service on Tuesday intercepted a device addressed to Hillary Clinton’s home 10 miles away in Chappaqua, then on Wednesday intercepted one addressed to Obama's Washington, D.C., home. 

Then, a device that O'Neill said was "treated as a live explosive device capable of injuring or killing someone" was delivered by courier Wednesday to CNN at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, and addressed to former CIA director John Brennan. 

Authorities were also investigating the first package found earlier that was addressed to Waters   and another addressed to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and seized Wednesday from the Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former head of the Democratic National Committee.

According to a high-ranking NYPD official, all six of the earlier packages were put together similarly, had postal stamps and Wasserman’s office as the return address. They appeared to be pipe bombs filled with powder, the official said.

What we know about the packages

Where were the packages sent and what did they contain?

  • Hillary Clinton. The Secret Service said a package addressed to Clinton in Westchester County was intercepted late Tuesday. It contained a suspected explosive device.

  • Barack Obama. A package addressed to Obama and containing a suspected explosive device was intercepted early Wednesday in Washington, the Secret Service said.
  • CNN. NYPD officials were at CNN's Time Warner Center in Manhattan when a suspected explosive device was discovered, along with a powder in the same package, prompting an evacuation. CNN said the package was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, who does not work there.
  • Eric Holder and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Authorities said they are investigating a suspicious device at the Florida office of Democratic congresswoman Schultz, a package reportedly addressed to former U.S. Attorney General Holder, who had served under Obama. 
  • George Soros. A small bomb was found Monday night at the billionaire's home in Katonah, about 10 miles from the Clintons’ home.
  • Maxine Waters. Waters, a Democratic California congresswoman, said Capitol Hill police informed her that a suspicious package was sent to her Washington, D.C., office, a case referred to the FBI.

The Associated Press reported late Wednesday that a law enforcement official said the pipe bombs were packed with powder and shards of glass and were made from PVC pipe that was about six inches long and covered with black tape.The official told AP each device also had a small battery, similar to a watch battery.

Wednesday, Trump, in a televised appearance, vowed: “The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice. ... We will spare no resources or expense in this effort."

Trump, who was at a ceremonial signing for an anti-opioid bill, called for unity, saying, “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.”

But some faulted Trump, saying he had laid the groundwork for such crimes by fomenting division.

Brennan, a frequent Trump critic, said on CNN, that the president is “pandering to this very, very disturbing sentiment of some people. … He has to realize every single day that he is a role model.”

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) called the bombing targets "cable news Democrats," adding: "Obviously somebody is coming from a very anti-Democratic Party perspective."

The threat played out live Wednesday morning as CNN anchors, speaking over the wail of alarms, abandoned their Time Warner Center studio and joined streams of people evacuating nearby blocks in midtown Manhattan.

"It appears that an individual or individuals sent out multiple, similar packages," John Miller, NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said at a news conference with city, state and law enforcement leaders near the CNN studios.

Cuomo doubled the security at key bridges, roads and airports in and around New York City.

“There is a number of devices and there’s a pattern apparently to the number of devices," the governor said at the news conference. "We wouldn’t be at all surprised if more devices show up."

In Nassau County, police distributed an “awareness bulletin” to its officers as a reminder of what to do if they spot suspicious packages, police Commissioner Patrick J. Ryder said, and urged the public to stay away from such packages: “You don’t go up, you don’t touch it, you don’t kick it.”

In Suffolk County, the police said they are monitoring developments and that it has a “a very robust and capable public safety bomb squad” that receives timely intelligence from the FBI.

The day of unsettling announcements came after Westchester authorities removed a device from the mailbox of Soros’ home in Katonah. Soros is known for backing liberal causes.

The Secret Service tweeted Wednesday that it intercepted packages with “potential explosive devices.”

The one they seized Tuesday was aimed at Hillary Clinton, former first lady, presidential candidate and secretary of state, and addressed to her cul-de-sac residence in Chappaqua, where a local police car was parked out front Wednesday.

Hillary Clinton was in Florida campaigning for Democrats. But former President Bill Clinton was home when the package was intercepted at a Westchester facility, The Associated Press reported, citing a person familiar with his schedule. The person said the package was screened at the facility — not in proximity to their residence — and never reached the Clintons’ home.

"We are fine thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home," Hillary Clinton said Wednesday afternoon in Florida. "It is a troubling time, isn't it?"

Then Wednesday, the Secret Service intercepted a package meant for Obama.

“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the Secret Service said in a statement. “Both packages were intercepted prior to being delivered to their intended location.”

NYPD officials said they started checking in with elected officials and media outlets, telling them what to look out for, and police were at CNN's Time Warner Center when the device was discovered.

“What we saw here today was an effort to terrorize,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “The people of New York City will not be intimidated.”

On Capitol Hill and across the country, Democratic and Republican leaders decried the threats and said they mirrored the animosity across the country.

Vice President Mike Pence tweeted: "These cowardly actions are despicable & have no place in this Country. . . . Those responsible will be brought to justice."

Trump retweeted Pence's comment, adding "I agree wholeheartedly."

In an interview Wednesday outside Newsday’s Melville office, GOP gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro urged New Yorkers to assist law enforcement in bringing the “terrorists” responsible for the attempted bombings to justice.

“Someone of some organization, foreign or domestic, is attempting to sow the seeds of hate and terrorize the American politic,” said Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive. “The American  political  climate is as angry and vitriolic as it’s ever been. It’s important that all of us engage in attempting to tone down the rhetoric and ensure that neither hateful speech nor actions of violence are tolerated.”

Democratic leaders on the Hill put some of the blame on Trump.

"Time and time again, the president has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement.

De Blasio urged citizens not to let terrorists win by departing from normal routine.


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