pipe bomb CNN device

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Wave Of Package Bombs Targets Democrats, CNN In 'Act Of Terror'

October 24, 2018 - 4:00 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- Crude pipe bombs targeting Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, CNN and others were intercepted Tuesday night and Wednesday in a rash of attacks aimed at prominent Democrats and a cable news network often criticized by political conservatives.

PHOTOS: Pipe Bombs Sent to CNN Offices, Clinton Home In NY

President Donald Trump said a major federal investigation is underway.

"The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice," Trump said. "We will spare no resource or expense in this effort."

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The bombs were intercepted two weeks before nationwide elections that could reshape Congress and serve as a referendum on the first two years of Trump's presidency. The events quickly overtook other campaign news in an already-tense political season, which has included pitched fights over immigration, the Supreme Court and sexual violence against women.

The president condemned the attacks and called for unity.

"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 added. "This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and scared as Americans... We are extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning and we will get to the bottom of it."

The package delivered to CNN's New York headquarters in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle contained what appeared to be a live explosive and an envelope with white powder, that is now being tested.

A photo obtained by CBS News shows the package was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan, who appears on air on other broadcast and cable outlets. The package had Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Florida office as the return address.

The FDNY says the device was found on the concourse level in the CNN mailroom Wednesday morning, WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reported. Investigators said it appears to be similar to explosives sent to Obama and Clinton, as well as the device discovered Monday in a mailbox at the Katonah estate of billionaire George Soros. All of the devices appear to be pipe bombs, said Bryan Paarmann, the FBI special agent in charge.

"It appears that an individual sent out multiple similar packages," said John Miller, NYPD deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism.

CNN was live on the air when the alarm started sounding in the studio and a stream of people in the newsroom started to heed the orders to evacuate.

One worker said he was in the Time Warner Center when he was notified about the explosive device over his phone.

"We got something on our app that said there's a bomb in Whole Foods," he said.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake was at a meeting near Columbus Circle at the time.

"It's awful, frankly," the senator said as police patrolled nearby. "See your opponents as opponents, not enemies."

CNN President Jeff Zucker sent a message to employees saying the building was evacuated "out of an abundance of caution," adding "we are working with authorities to determine the severity of the situation." He said all bureaus around the world were also being checked out of an abundance of caution.

Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted that the device was safely removed by the NYPD Bomb Squad and that a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents had been lifted.

New York City Police Commissioner James O'Neill said the area has been swept with dogs and equipment and found no additional threats. 

"We've seen this before, and we've seen worse and we will not be intimidated and we will bring these perpetrators to justice," O'Neill said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "What we saw here today was an effort to terrorize. This clearly is an act of terror attempting to undermine our free press and leaders of our country through acts of violence. I want to make very clear that the people of New York City will not be intimidated. That we're going to go about our lives undeterred because the very concept of terrorism is to change us and we will not allow that to happen."

De Blasio said there are no other credible and specific threats against locations in the city, but the NYPD is deploying resources across the city out of an abundance of caution.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wouldn't be surprised if more devices are discovered.

"This is the world we live in, terrorism, the attempt to spread fear is the world that we live in," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "Terrorism only works if you let it work. What they're trying to do is scare us and destabilize us and we will not allow that to happen. We are New Yorkers, we are smart, we are tough, we are resilient and we will not allow these terrorist thugs to change the way we live our lives."

Cuomo said a device had been discovered at his Third Avenue office in Manhattan but the NYPD has since told WCBS 880 the suspicious package was just a thumb drive.

"A preliminary investigation on the package at Governor Cuomo's office shows it is computer files on the hate group, The Proud Boys, who recently appeared in New York," Cuomo spokesperson Rich Azzopardi said in a statement.

Earlier, the Secret Service intercepted packages containing "potential explosive devices" that were addressed to the Clintons and Obamas. 

The agency said a package recovered late Tuesday was addressed to Clinton's Chappaqua home and another package addressed to Obama's home was intercepted in Washington.

"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."

Bill Clinton was home at the time but the device never made it to the house. He expressed his gratitude to law enforcement in a tweet.

Hillary Clinton was in Coral Gables, Florida, for a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala. 

Speaking at the fundraiser, Clinton said "we are fine" and thanked the Secret Service for intercepting the explosive device "long before it made its way to our home.'' 

The Secret Service is working with the FBI and local authorities "to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible."

The White House condemned the attempted attacks on Obama and Clinton.

"These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law," White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement . "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.'' 

A device intended for former Attorney General Eric Holder was also among those intercepted, two people familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press. One of the people said the device was sent to the wrong address before being sent back to what was listed as the return address -- the office of Wasserman Schultz in Sunrise, Florida.

Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was in Coral Gables with Clinton at the time. Her office was evacuated, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office was using a bomb squad robot to inspect the package addressed to Holder. 

Yet another suspicious package was sent to a second office of Wasserman Schultz in Aventura, Florida, according to local police. "In an abundance of caution, we are having a package that was addressed to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz checked" by the Miami police and fire department, police said. It's unclear if that package had any sort of device with it.

In a statement, Wasserman Schultz said: "We will not be intimidated by this attempted act of violence. This appalling attack on our democracy must be vigorously prosecutd and I am deeply disturbed by the way my name was used."

Vice President Mike Pence is condemned the "attempted attacks" tweeting, "These cowardly actions are despicable & have no place in this Country.'' 

In a statement later in the day, CNN President Jeff Zucker wrote that, "There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President, especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that."

Rep. Maxine Waters says her Washington office was the target of a suspicious package too. The California Democrat said in a statement that U.S. Capitol Police informed her about the package and that it had been referred to the FBI. Waters has been a frequent critic of Trump, who has called her "an extremely low IQ person."

Meanwhile, the Secret Service said reports that a suspicious package addressed to the White House are "incorrect."

There were no explosions and no reports of injuries.

In a statement, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the devices were being sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, for analysis. 

“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,” Wray said.

The FBI says the packages were mailed in manila envelopes with a bubble wrap interior and affixed with computer-printed address labels and six Forever stamps. All packages had a return address of “DEBBIE WASSERMAN SHULTZ” [sic> in Florida.

It's possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations, the FBI said, urging the public to remain vigilant and not touch, move or handle any suspicious or unknown packages. 

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report)