WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama and two members of his cabinet were among the targets of suspected package bombs delivered to high-profile Democrats and CNN in what New York officials Wednesday branded as terrorism.
The parcels, at least five in all, were intercepted before they harmed any of their intended recipients, who included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Attorney General Eric Holder and former CIA Director John Brennan, the FBI said. There was no claim of responsibility.
But news of the threats heightened tensions in a nation already deeply polarized ahead of elections — less than two weeks away, on Nov. 6 — that decide if Democrats gain control of one or both congressional chambers. The packages come on the heels of the contentious vote earlier this month to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, a process that brought death threats to both sides of the debate.
Investigators have not disclosed information about the origin of the packages, and no evidence has surfaced connecting the acts to any political campaign.
The first package, which turned up on Monday, was addressed to billionaire financier George Soros, a Democratic Party donor and frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.
But the parcel intended for Holder ended up rerouted to the return address the FBI said had been printed on all five packages — the Florida office of U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who formerly chaired the Democratic National Committee.
“It is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations,” the FBI said.
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U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democratic congresswoman from Los Angeles, said her Capitol Hill office was the target of a suspicious package that “has been referred to the FBI.”
The five other packages confirmed by the FBI were described as appearing similar, consisting of a manila envelope with a bubble-wrap interior containing “potentially destructive devices.” Each bore a computer-printed address label and six “Forever” stamps, the FBI said.
Other officials said the devices contained in the envelopes were similar to the one found in the mailbox of Soros’ home.
The Secret Service intercepted packages, both in off-site screening locations, addressed to Obama at his Washington home and to Clinton at her home in New York state. The CNN bureau in New York also received a package leading police to evacuate the building.
“So far the devices have been what appeared to be pipe bombs,” John Miller, the New York City police deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, told reporters.
“This clearly is an act of terror attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of this country through acts of violence,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
De Blasio later dismissed social media posts suggesting the packages were a liberal hoax, telling CNN, “This is the real thing.”
Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders both condemned the acts as “despicable” and vowed to bring those responsible to justice.
Trump, who usually relishes in partisan attacks on Democrats, issued a call for unity.
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“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.
All of the targets are frequently maligned by right-wing critics.
Trump has repeatedly criticized CNN as “fake news” and disparaged the free press as an “enemy of the people.”
Last week, Trump praised a Montana congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement read on CNN. “The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand that their words matter.”
The Washington Post contributed.