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U.S. Politics Suspicious packages sent to De Niro, Biden as investigators focus on leads in Florida

A member of the New York City Police Department's bomb squad is seen outside the Time Warner Center in Manhattan after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN headquarters on Oct. 24, 2018.

KEVIN COOMBS/Reuters

An attempt to send bombs through the mail to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other Democratic politicians, a left-wing billionaire and a cable news channel have led to calls for President Donald Trump to curb his own often-violent rhetoric.

The actions, which people across the political spectrum condemned as terrorism, come at a time of heightened political rancour before midterm elections on Nov. 6 that will determine control of Congress.

Mr. Obama, the former president, Ms. Clinton, a former presidential nominee, ex-attorney general Eric Holder, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and former vice-president Joe Biden were all targeted by packages found in the mail on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Monday, a bomb was discovered in the home mailbox of George Soros, a major donor to progressive causes.

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Explainer: U.S. bomb scares: What we know so far about attempted attacks on Clinton, Obama, CNN and others

An explosive device accompanied by an envelope of white powder was delivered to CNN on Wednesday addressed to John Brennan, a former CIA director who has become a prominent critic of the Trump administration on cable television. The Time Warner building in Manhattan was evacuated even as CNN anchors inside were reporting the other bombs.

Later on Wednesday, a suspicious package addressed to former vice-president Joe Biden was intercepted at a mail facility in Delaware.

And on Thursday, a suspicious package was found at a Manhattan restaurant owned by actor Robert De Niro, a prominent critic of Mr. Trump. A bomb squad unit could be seen driving through the city after leaving the area of the restaurant. A second package addressed to Mr. Biden, meanwhile, was found at a mail facility in Delaware.

None of the devices exploded. At least four of the 10 packages – those sent to Mr. Obama’s home in Washington, Ms. Clinton’s residence in Chappaqua, N.Y., Ms. Waters’s Capitol Hill office and Mr. Biden – were intercepted by authorities before they were delivered.

Wednesday:

Sent to John Brennan at CNN offices in NY

NEW YORK

Monday:

George Soros

residence in

Katonah, NY

MANHATTAN

Tuesday:

Clinton home in

Chappaqua, NY

Thursday:

Building associated

with Robert De Niro

NEW

JERSEY

0

1

Long

Island

KM

Philadelphia

Thursday:

Package addressed to Biden intercepted at a mail facility in New Castle, Delaware

MARYLAND

Baltimore

D.C.

Atlantic

Ocean

DELAWARE

Wednesday: Sent to Obama and Maxine Waters, intercepted at mail facility in Washington area

0

55

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE

GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:TILEZEN; OPEN-

STREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NEW YORK

TIMES; CNN

Wednesday:

Sent to John Brennan at CNN offices in NY

NEW YORK

Monday:

George Soros

residence in

Katonah, NY

Hudson

River

Tuesday:

Clinton home in

Chappaqua, NY

MANHATTAN

Thursday:

Building associated

with Robert De Niro

NEW

JERSEY

0

1

Long

Island

KM

Philadelphia

Thursday:

Package addressed to Biden intercepted at a mail facility in New Castle, Delaware

MARYLAND

Baltimore

D.C.

Atlantic

Ocean

DELAWARE

Wednesday: Sent to Obama and Maxine Waters, intercepted at mail facility in Washington area

0

55

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE:TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU;

NEW YORK TIMES; CNN

Wednesday:

Sent to John Brennan at CNN offices in NY

NEW YORK

Monday:

George Soros

residence in

Katonah, NY

Hudson

River

MANHATTAN

Tuesday:

Clinton home in Chappaqua, NY

Thursday:

Building associated

with Robert De Niro

0

1

KM

Long

Island

NEW

JERSEY

Philadelphia

Thursday:

Package addressed to Biden intercepted at a mail facility in New Castle, Delaware

MARYLAND

Baltimore

Wednesday: Sent to Obama and Maxine Waters, intercepted at mail facility in Washington area

Atlantic

Ocean

DELAWARE

0

55

D.C.

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR AND JOHN SOPINSKI / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; NEW YORK TIMES; CNN

Thursday:

Package addressed to Maxine Waters intercepted at a mail facility in Los Angeles

CANADA

U.S.

Calif.

Fla.

Gulf of

Mexico

MEXICO

0

500

KM

Wednesday:

Suspicious packages found addressed to Eric Holder at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s offices in Sunrise

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE:

TILEZEN; OSM CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; WIRES

Thursday:

Package addressed to Maxine Waters intercepted at a mail facility in Los Angeles

CANADA

U.S.

Calif.

Fla.

Gulf of

Mexico

MEXICO

0

500

CUBA

KM

Wednesday:

Suspicious packages found addressed to Eric Holder at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s offices in Sunrise

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN;

OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; WIRES

CANADA

Thursday:

Package addressed to Maxine Waters intercepted at a mail facility in Los Angeles

Wednesday:

Suspicious packages found addressed to Eric Holder at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s offices in Sunrise

U.S.

Calif.

Fla.

MEXICO

Gulf of

Mexico

0

500

CUBA

KM

MURAT YÜKSELIR / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU; WIRES

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that the packages meant for Mr. Obama, Ms. Clinton, Mr. Holder, Mr. Brennan, Mr. Soros and Ms. Waters were “similar in appearance” and “contain potentially destructive devices.” All seven consisted of manila bubble mailers with six stamps and computer-printed labels. All listed Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on the return address; the package sent to Mr. Holder went to her Florida office instead. A second package for Ms. Waters was located in Los Angeles. The FBI said the packages had been sent to its facilities in Quantico, Va., for forensic analysis.

A photograph of the package sent to Mr. De Niro, broadcast by CNN, appeared identical to the packages now being handled by the FBI. The Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, said the parcel for Mr. Biden was also similar.

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Reuters reported Thursday that the investigation is currently focusing on Florida and that investigators believe all the packages went through the American postal system – contradicting early indications that some of the bombs may have been delivered by hand. No one has claimed responsibility for the attempted attacks, and authorities have not identified any suspects.

Authorities did not immediately identify any suspects. But the thread connecting the targets was clear: All are either Democrats, frequent recipients of Mr. Trump’s rhetorical ire, the subject of conspiracy theories, or some combination of all three.

Opinion: Make America hate again: When political rhetoric turns violent

On Wednesday afternoon, the President said he was “extremely angry” and “upset” by the attacks.

“In these times, we have to unify,” he said at a White House event. “Acts and threats of political violence have no place in the United States of America. … This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and sacred as Americans.”

By Thursday morning, however, Mr. Trump had returned to the angry rhetoric his critics have blamed for stoking the country’s divisive politics.

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“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” the President tweeted. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

Mr. Trump’s rallies are famous for chants disparaging CNN and calling for Ms. Clinton to be jailed. At an event last week, the President lauded incumbent Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte for body-slamming a reporter with the Guardian newspaper – an attack for which Mr. Gianforte received a criminal conviction. At previous rallies, he has encouraged his supporters to fight protesters who try to disrupt him. He has also described the news media as the “enemy” of the people, and once tweeted a video of himself beating up someone with the CNN logo over his head.

Conspiracy theorists often depict Mr. Soros as a Machiavellian puppet-master of the left and paint Mr. Brennan and other intelligence officials as members of a “deep state” trying to hold back Mr. Trump’s agenda. Ms. Waters became a target of Mr. Trump’s insults after she called on protesters to hound members of his administration in public places.

The Democrats’ top congressional leaders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, called on Mr. Trump to stop his aggressive rhetoric.

“President Trump’s words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence. Time and again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and actions,” Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi said in a joint statement.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio connected this week’s “acts of terror” to the country’s political divides.

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“This is a very painful time in our nation,” he said outside the Time Warner building. "It’s a time when people are feeling a lot of hatred in the air. Incidents like this exacerbate that pain and exacerbate that fear. To all public officials of all partisan affiliations: Don’t encourage violence, don’t encourage hatred, don’t encourage attacks on media.”

In a statement, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the bombs as “attempted acts of domestic terrorism” and paid tribute to authorities who had ensured none were detonated by their intended recipients.

GOP House Whip Steve Scalise – who was shot last year at a baseball practice by a gunman targeting congressional Republicans – called for an end to violence infecting U.S. politics.

“I have experienced first-hand the effects of political violence, and am committed to using my voice to speak out against it whenever I can,” he tweeted. “As a nation, we must agree that this is a dangerous path and it cannot become the new normal.”

The Secret Service said it had intercepted the bombs sent to Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton as part of routine mail screening. CNN, meanwhile, said a mailroom employee saw the suspicious package and called police, who removed it in a secure storage container.

Ms. Clinton, who was campaigning for Democratic candidates in Florida on Wednesday, said it was “a troubling time” for the country. “It’s a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together,” she said.

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Erin Miller, who runs the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, said the attempted attacks were unusual: Previous mail bomb attacks have tended not to target high-profile people, while dangerous packages sent to prominent people have usually contained anthrax or ricin.

“It’s certainly very concerning and quite plausible that this is a reflection of heightened political volatility, but there is still much to be learned about the perpetrator(s) and the motives,” she wrote in an e-mail.

But Ms. Miller pointed out that such attempted attacks, even on political figures, are not always necessarily motivated by ideology: In 2013, for instance, a Texas woman mailed ricin-laced letters to Mr. Obama, then-New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and gun control advocate Mark Glaze in a bid to frame her estranged husband.

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