Mail bombs to US political figures, media: What we know

A member of the New York Police Department bomb squad is pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manhattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York. (Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

A member of the New York Police Department bomb squad is pictured outside the Time Warner Center in the Manhattan borough of New York City after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in New York. (Kevin Coombs/Reuters)

The FBI is investigating mail bombs and suspicious packages that were sent to prominent Democratic critics of President Donald Trump. Here’s what we know:

Who was targeted?

The first bomb was discovered on Monday in a mailbox at the New York home of billionaire financier and Democratic Party supporter George Soros.

Late Tuesday and early Wednesday, explosive devices were addressed to the New York residence of former Democratic presidential candidate and secretary of state Hillary Clinton; the Washington residence of former Democratic president Barack Obama; Eric Holder, the attorney general under Obama; and John Brennan, Obama’s CIA director, sent care of the New York offices of CNN, where Brennan is a frequent guest commentator.

Additionally, California Democratic Representative Maxine Waters said the FBI is investigating a suspicious package sent to her. The FBI did not confirm that.

What was in the packages?

The packages confirmed by the FBI were all similar and contained “potentially destructive devices,” according to the bureau.

All were wrapped in bubble wrap and placed inside manilla envelopes with printed address labels.
The envelopes had identical return addresses for Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former Democratic National Committee chairwoman.

The devices insides, according to reports and a photograph of one, were small, crude but potentially lethal pipe bombs: usually a metal water pipe filled with explosive material and shrapnel, tightly sealed at the ends and detonated by a fuse inserted through a hole.

New York police commissioner James O’Neill described the one sent to Brennan at CNN as appearing to be a “live explosive device.”

O’Neill said that package also contained an envelope of an unidentified white powder.

In the case of Clinton and Obama, the US Secret Service said it identified the suspect packages during routine mail screening procedures it provides the former top politicians in facilities separate from their homes.

The addressees “did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them,” the Secret Service said.

In the case of the package to Holder, it never reached his Washington office. The postal service sent it to the return address: the Florida office of Wasserman Schultz.

Who did it?

So far no suspects have been identified. The FBI said it has sent the packages to its laboratory in Quantico, Virginia for analysis.

“It is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations,” the FBI warned.

What connects the targets?

The targets are all Democrats frequently attacked by Trump online and in speeches as he defends his 2016 election victory and policies he has implemented since coming to office in January 2017.

Obama preceded him in the White House and Clinton was his 2016 election rival. Holder was attorney general in the last years of the Obama administration.

Trump has labelled CNN the leading purveyor of “fake news” against him, and Brennan is perhaps his most damaging critic from the national security community.

Trump often ridicules Waters, a senior African-American Democrat, as “low IQ” and has regularly assailed Wasserman Schultz, one of the most senior Democrats in the House of Representatives.

© Agence France-Presse

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