Updated: Law enforcement authorities arrested Cesar Sayoc Jr. Friday, charging him with federal crimes including illegal mailing of explosives, interstate transportation of explosives, making threats against former presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications and assaulting current and former federal officers.
As of Friday morning, 12 suspicious packages sent to high-profile Democrats or their supporters, each containing devices that look like pipe bombs, have been recovered by law enforcement authorities.
The packages, manila envelopes with misspelled labels and “forever” stamps, have been delivered since Monday period to former presidents, a former vice president, a former secretary of state, a former attorney general, the former head of the CIA, the former Director of National Intelligence, two Congresswomen, a congressman, a high-profile Democratic supporter and an actor.
So far, the FBI has not said if the devices were functioning bombs. Photos released by CNN and others show something that looks like a pipe with wires and some sort of device that could be used to detonate the device.
Here’s what we know on Friday morning:
Who were the targets, when were they discovered, who intercepted them?
So far, 13 people have been sent suspicious packages. The packages were addressed to former President Barack Obama, former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, former Attorney Gen. Eric Holder, former CIA Director John Brennan (via the New York offices of CNN), George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Tom Steyer.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s name, misspelled, was part of the return address of each package, and a suspicious package that was addressed to an incorrect address for Holder was “returned” to her office on Wednesday.
Here’s how each package was discovered according to the FBI:
George Soros: The first device was discovered Monday afternoon in Soros’ mailbox. He is a billionaire who supports Democratic candidates and causes. An employee of Soros’ found the package in the mailbox of Soros’ home in Katonah, New York.
“An employee of the residence opened the package, revealing what appeared to be an explosive device,” law enforcement said in a statement. “The employee placed the package in a wooded area and called the Bedford police.”
Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: Secret Service personnel conducting standard mail screenings found a pipe bomb inside a plain manila envelope with a bubble-wrapped interior addressed to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Early Wednesday, a suspicious package sent to Obama was discovered by Secret Service agents scanning his mail.
“The U.S. Secret Service has intercepted two suspicious packages addressed to Secret Service protectees.
“Late on October 23, 2018, the Secret Service recovered a single package addressed to Former First Lady Hillary Clinton in Westchester County, New York. Early this morning, October 24, 2018, a second package addressed to the residence of Former President Barack Obama was intercepted by Secret Service personnel in Washington, DC.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such. 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 Secret Service 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.”
John Brennan: The device addressed to Brennan was sent to the New York offices of CNN. An employee at the Time Warner Center, where CNN’s offices are located, alerted authorities about the suspicious package early Wednesday morning.
Eric Holder: A package that had the wrong address for Holder's office was "returned to sender” using the return address of Wasserman Schultz’s Florida office. The device was delivered there and law enforcement authorities removed the device on Wednesday afternoon.
Maxine Waters: By late Wednesday afternoon one package was sent to Waters office in Washington and one to her California office. The first package was discovered at her office in Washington, the second at a postal facility in Los Angeles.
Robert De Niro: New York City police responded to a call of a suspicious package at a building in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York City around 4:45 a.m. Thursday.
The package was addressed to De Niro and was similar to the other pipe bomb packages discovered Wednesday. A security guard found the package on Wednesday and put it aside until Thursday when he realized it was similar to the devices that had been received at various places on Wednesday.
Joe Biden: Biden was sent two suspicious packages. After a search by the FBI and postal authorities, the two packages were found and secured Thursday morning.
Cory Booker: An 11th package addressed to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker was discovered Friday in a Florida postal facility.
James Clapper: A package addressed to Clapper, who is the former director of national intelligence, was discovered Friday at a New York City postal facility. According to CNN, the package was addressed to Clapper, care of the news organization’s New York bureau.
Kamala Harris: A package addressed to Harris was discovered in California on Friday.
Tom Steyer: The FBI has confirmed a package was recovered in California addressed to Steyer, a billionaire who supports Democrats. The package was similar in appearance to the others.
What do the packages look like?
The packages came with a computer-printed address label, a computer-printed return address label with Wasserman Schultz’s name misspelled, and six “Forever” postage stamps that bear the American flag, according to law enforcement authorities.
What type of devices are in the packages?
Some investigators have called the devices pipe bombs. The FBI has not called the contents of the package a “bomb,” only that they were “potentially destructive devices.” No other information is available about the devices.
Isn’t a pipe bomb an IED?
Yes, pipe bombs are improvised explosive devices. IEDs are bombs made of various materials that are not meant to be detonated in a conventional military situation.
Were the devices functional?
According to the FBI, the packages contained “potentially destructive devices.” No investigating authority has said if the devices were functioning bombs.
Was this an assassination attempt?
If the packages did contain functioning bombs, it could be considered an assassination attempt. No investigating agency has classified the delivery of the packages as an assassination attempt.
Who is investigating?
According to the FBI, the bureau “will continue to work with our federal law enforcement partners at the United States Secret Service, United States Postal Inspection Service, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as well as our state and local law enforcement partners, to identify and arrest the person or people responsible for sending these packages.” Each of the packages is being sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, according to a press release from the FBI.
What are the penalties?
A person sending an explosive device to someone would face a variety of charges including attempted murder. They would face additional federal charges if the devices were sent through the mail. From Findlaw.com, “Mailing explosives through the United States Postal Service (USPS) is also illegal through a separate statute. While mailing prohibited items can result in fines and/or up to a year of imprisonment, if the prohibited items are mailed with the intent to injure or kill another person, the penalty increases to a prison term not exceeding 20 years. Finally, if a person is convicted under this statute and there was a death as a result of mailing prohibited items, the offender can receive life in prison or the death penalty.”
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