By Chris York
The US has been rocked by a series of explosive devices posted to high-profile political figures and a leading news organisation.
Who Has Been Targeted?
- a package sent to the Time Warner Centre in New York, home of TV news channel CNN, contained a live explosive which police described as a pipe bomb and an envelope containing white powder. The package was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, an outspoken critic of Donald Trump, who is a periodic contributor to the network
- police intercepted suspected explosive devices sent to former US President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
- in Florida, the building that houses the office of US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former Democratic Party national chairwoman, was evacuated after a suspicious package arrived in the mail
- breaking reports say police intercepted a package addressed to Democratic congresswoman Maxine Waters. The package had been addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder but the former Democratic Party national chairwoman was listed on the return address
- during a press conference addressing the device mailed to CNN, Democrat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters that an explosive device had been sent to his office
- the devices are similar to that sent to the billionaire philanthropist and Democrat donor George Soros on Monday
Which Were False Alarms?
- early reports suggested another device had been sent to the White House but this was later found to be false
- police searched the house of former Vice President, Joe Biden, which was later given the all-clear
What Do The Targets Have In Common?
While it’s too early to speculate on a motive, all the targets have been frequent targets of verbal attacks from President Donald Trump.
Trump routinely calls the news media and CNN in particular, the “enemy of the people” and belittles critical coverage as “fake news”.
Who Sent Them?
There is currently no indication of who is responsible for the attempted attacks.
When Were The Devices Found?
The package sent to Clinton was found late on Tuesday and the one addressed to Obama was recovered early Wednesday, both during routine off-site mail screenings.
The Time Warner Centre was evacuated on Wednesday morning when the pipe bomb was found.
What’s The Official Response Been?
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference: “This is clearly an act of terrorism.”
What Has Trump Said?
Initially, very little – the President chose to retweet the Vice President, adding “I agree wholeheartedly” rather than fully address the issue.
I agree wholeheartedly! https://t.co/ndzu0A30vU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
Later, speaking to reporters, he said: “In these times we have to unify, we have to come together and send one very clear strong and unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States of America.
“We’re extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning and we will get to the bottom of it.”
Why Is The Timing Important?
The attempted attacks occurred two weeks before US midterm elections at a time when the country is deeply polarised under Trump
The packages brought a new level of tension to political contests that will decide whether Democrats can challenge the majorities now held by Trump’s Republicans in Congress.
What Have Those Targeted Said?
Speaking in Florida, Clinton said: “We are fine thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service. Every day, we are grateful for their service and commitment. And obviously, never more than today.
“But it is a troubling time, isn’t it?”
Obama is yet to comment.
CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a note to employees the Time Warner Centre was evacuated “out of an abundance of caution”, adding CNN was checking its bureaus worldwide.
This country has to come together. This division, this hatred, this ugliness has to end.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) October 24, 2018
Alexander Soros, the son of George Soros, said in an opinion piece published by The New York Times that his father had long faced verbal criticism and threats over his involvement in politics, “but something changed in 2016” when Trump was elected.
“Before that, the vitriol he faced was largely confined to the extremist fringes, among white supremacists and nationalists who sought to undermine the very foundations of democracy. But with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, things got worse,” Alexander Soros wrote.
He placed direct responsibility with those who sent the devices, but added: “I cannot see it divorced from the new normal of political demonisation that plagues us today.”
Has Anything Like This Happened before?
In the weeks following the attacks of September 11, 2001, anthrax spores were mailed to news media offices and two US senators, killing five people and infecting 17 others.
The main suspect in the case killed himself before he could be fully investigated.