The U.S. Secret Service confirmed Wednesday that it intercepted explosive devices sent to the homes of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Michelle and Barack Obama. CNN’s New York bureau was evacuated after a suspicious package was discovered in the mailroom shortly after the Secret Service’s announcement.
A third package, addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder, was mistakenly delivered to the office of Florida representative and former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz a few hours later. (The package apparently listed Wasserman Schultz’s office its the return address.) And Capitol Hill police intercepted a fifth intended for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) the same afternoon. The next morning, packages were found at Robert DeNiro’s restaurant in TriBeCa and former Vice President Joe Biden’s home and office in Delaware.
All of this comes just days after a pipe bomb was discovered in the mailbox of Democratic donor and far-right bogeyman George Soros’ home in Katonah, New York on Monday.
On Wednesday, the Secret Service said its agents intercepted a single package sent to the Clintons’ home in Chappaqua, New York late Tuesday night. Early Wednesday morning, the agency recovered the second package addressed to former President Obama’s office at a mail facility in Washington, D.C.
“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. The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
The agency says it has 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.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the threats “despicable,” adding that anyone responsible would be “held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“We condemn the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures,” Sanders said in a statement to the White House press pool. “The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.”
The Time Warner Center, home to CNN’s New York bureau, was evacuated around 10 a.m. ET Wednesday after an envelope containing wires and a pipe was discovered in the building’s mailroom. The package was addressed to frequent CNN guest and former CIA director John Brennan, of whom the president has been critical. The NYPD bomb squad used a containment truck to dispose of the device.
There was also, amidst the clamor on Wednesday, a string of false alarms. CNN first reported a explosive device destined for the White House was intercepted at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., before Reuters, citing a source familiar, said that no such device was found. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed his office received a package, before an NYPD official clarified that it was in fact an “an informational package containing literature.” (Apparently the information was about the far-right Proud Boys.) And the San Diego Union Tribune, where Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has an office, was evacuated after a suspicious package was spotted out front. (The boxes in question turned out to contain: one shoe, two children’s books, one football, one empty bag of chips and one hat, according to the Union Tribune.)
According to the New York Times, the devices sent to the Obamas and Clintons were similar enough to the one discovered at Soros’ property that the FBI is investigating whether they are linked. The explosive device sent to Soros was a pipe bomb, six inches long and stuffed with explosive powder, according to the Times. It was “proactively” detonated by the Westchester County Police Department; FBI agents were also on scene. The FBI’s New York office said in a statement Wednesday morning that its office had initiated a joint terrorism task force to investigate a suspicious package sent to the Clinton residence.
In a statement, the FBI said the various packages — all delivered in manila postal envelopes with bubble wrap interior, with computer-printed address labels and Forever stamps — would be analyzed at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia.
“This investigation is of the highest priority for the FBI. We have committed the full strength of the FBI’s resources and, together with our partners on our Joint Terrorism Task Forces, we will continue to work to identify and arrest whoever is responsible for sending these packages,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “We ask anyone who may have information to contact the FBI. Do not hesitate to call; no piece of information is too small to help us in this investigation.”
All of the packages listed Wasserman Schultz’s Florida office as a return address. “I am deeply disturbed by the way my name was used,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “Today my staff and I will hug each other and our loved ones tightly, and tomorrow get back to work serving people I was elected to represent.”
President Trump was quiet for much of Wednesday as the devices — sent to individuals and institutions he’s singled out in the past — were discovered one by one. He finally spoke Wednesday afternoon, at a previously scheduled event at the White House. “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,” Trump said.
Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) released a joint statement criticizing the president for his history of inflammatory rhetoric.
“President Trump’s words ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence,” Pelosi and Schumer said. “Time and time again, the President has condoned physical violence and divided Americans with his words and his actions: expressing support for the Congressman who body-slammed a reporter, the neo-Nazis who killed a young woman in Charlottesville, his supporters at rallies who get violent with protestors, dictators around the world who murder their own citizens, and referring to the free press as the enemy of the people.”
Wednesday, Oct. 24, 10:53 am: This post has been updated throughout, and will continue to be updated as new information becomes available.