Ahead of the November 6 midterm elections in the United States, pipe bombs packed with shards of glass were sent to prominent critics of Donald Trump including former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic party candidate Hillary Clinton and offices of news channel CNN. A suspicious package addressed to actor Robert De Niro is also reported to have been found in the mail Thursday, as reported by AFP, investigations are underway,
The planned attacks have also initiated a debate on whether President Donald Trump has fanned passions to dangerous levels in the country.
None of the packages detonated, and nobody was hurt. Law enforcement authorities have ascribed no motive to the crime and investigations are underway. Buildings were evacuated and there was panic among people as the news of potential bomb explosions came in. The discovery of the devices comes at a time when the Republics and Democrats are caught in a tense battle to take control of the Congress in the elections that are less than two weeks away.
What did President Trump say?
Condemning the attempted bombings, US President Donald Trump called for unity against the “threat of political violence” and asked the media to end its “hostility.” “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony,” he said at a campaign rally in Wisconsin. “Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself.” Those “engaged in the political arena” must “stop treating political opponents as being morally defective,” he said. “We’re extremely angry, upset and unhappy about what we witnessed this morning, and we will get to the bottom of it,” Trump said.
I agree wholeheartedly! https://t.co/ndzu0A30vU
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2018
“We should not mob people in public spaces or destroy public property. There is one way to settle our disagreements. It’s called peacefully at the ballot box. As part of a larger national effort to bridge our divides and bring people together, the media also has a responsibility to set a civil tone and stop the endless hostility and constant negative and often times false attacks and stories,” he added. “Have to do it. They’ve got to stop.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the White House condemns the “attempted violent attacks” and called them “terrorizing acts” that are “despicable.”
Who were the bombs mailed to?
On the target list were popular Trump critics including former president Barack Obama, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton among others. The US Secretes Services said the packages to both Obama and Clinton”were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such”.
Packages addressed to the former attorney general Eric Holder, CIA Director John Brennan and prominent Democratic Party donor George Soros. was discovered before reaching the intended target. Explosives were also found at the office of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, California Rep. Maxine Waters. investigators were trying to track down another suspicious parcel they believe was addressed to former vice president, Joe Biden, a federal official told Reuters late on Wednesday.
Every day, I am grateful to the women and men of the United States Secret Service. Thank you.
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) October 24, 2018
The CNN bureau in New York received a package addressed to Brennan, who has appeared as an on-air CNN analyst, leading police to evacuate the Time Warner building. It contained an envelope of white powder that experts were analyzing, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said, reported news agency Reuters. “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 told a news conference.
Clinton, speaking at a fundraiser for congressional candidate Donna Shalala thanked the Secret Service for intercepting the package addressed to her home and called it “a troubling time.” “It is a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together,” she said. The Obamas have still not reacted on the incident.
What did the bombs look like?
The bombs, each with a small battery, were about six inches long and packed with powder and broken glass, said a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images. reported news agency AP. The devices all were sent to an FBI lab in Virginia to be studied. “Suffice it to say, it appears an individual or individuals sent out multiple, similar packages,” said John Miller, the New York Police Department’s head of intelligence and counterterrorism, who briefed reporters.
The FBI said the packages were sent in yellow manila envelopes lined with bubble wrap and affixed with a printed label and six “Forever” stamps. “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,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray in a press statement.
‘Words matter’: US media after bomb mails
CNN’s president on Wednesday denounced the White House for its “total and complete lack of understanding” of the consequences of attacks against the media channel. “The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter,” said Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide. “Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”
This is the suspicious package received this morning at the Time Warner Center, which houses the CNN New York bureau.
— CNN (@CNN) October 24, 2018
Less than two hours after the CNN offices were evacuated, Trump’s campaign sent a fundraising email to some supporters that specifically targeted CNN and urged recipients to fight back against the “fake news” attacks and bias against hardworking Americans.” Campaign chairman Brad Parscale later apologized, saying it was a pre-programmed message that was not caught before news of the pipe bomb came out.
In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Alexander Soros, son of George Soros – one of the recipient of the bomb mail wrote that under the Trump presidency, “it is now all too ‘normal’ that people who speak their minds are routinely subjected to personal hostility, hateful messages on social media and death threats.” The Washington Post also put out a story titled ‘Amid incendiary rhetoric, targets of Trump’s words become targets of bombs.’
What we don’t know
*If the there are other devices out there, undelivered
*Full list to whom packages were sent
*Who sent the packages
*Motive behind the mails
*Whether all incidents are related
(With inputs from agencies)