Actor Robert De Niro. (File)
Authorities discovered another wave of suspicious packages on Thursday targeting high-profile Democrats and critics of US President Donald Trump as a manhunt intensified for a serial bomber less than two weeks ahead of elections. None of the nine devices went off and no injuries were reported, but some top Democrats called the threats a symptom of a coarsening brand of political rhetoric promoted by Trump, who also condemned the acts.
A suspicious package addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden was found at a mail facility in New Castle County in Delaware, a federal law enforcement official told Reuters. Actor Robert De Niro, who hurled an obscenity at Trump at the Tony Awards last June, was also targeted, the official said.
At a Wisconsin rally Wednesday night Trump called attention to “how nice I’m behaving tonight” but on Thursday morning he attacked the media.
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“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News,” Trump wrote. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
All the people who were targeted are frequently maligned by right-wing critics, including former US President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder.
Former CIA Director John Brennan, prominent Democratic Party donor George Soros and California Representative Maxine Waters, an outspoken critic of Trump, were also targets.
The bomb packages were sent as the nation prepared for Nov. 6 elections that will decide whether Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress from Republicans and deny Trump the majority his party now holds in both chambers.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Several politicians, including US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, described it as an act of terrorism. “Someone is trying to intimidate. Someone is trying to quash voices in this country using violence,” De Blasio said. “I am confident that we will find the perpetrator or perpetrators.”
The CNN bureau in New York received a package addressed to Brennan, who has appeared as a CNN analyst, leading police to evacuate the Time Warner building in a busy Manhattan neighborhood near Central Park.
The package contained an envelope of white powder that experts were analyzing, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Trump told the Wisconsin rally his government would conduct ‘an aggressive investigation’. “Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself,” Trump said. “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony.”
Last week, Trump, who joined other Republicans in accusing Democrats of encouraging “mob” tactics, heaped praise on a Montana congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017. At an event in Texas on Wednesday, Brennan faulted Trump for frequent inflammatory rhetoric.
The first package, which turned up on Monday, was addressed to Soros, the billionaire financier and advocate of liberal, open-border values who is a frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.
The parcel intended for Holder ended up rerouted to the return address printed on all the packages – the Florida office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee, according to the FBI.
The FBI late Wednesday confirmed that two additional packages, similar in appearance to the others, were addressed to Waters.
The other packages consisted of a manila envelope with a bubble-wrap interior containing “potentially destructive devices.” Each bore a computer-printed address label and six “Forever” postage stamps, the FBI said
Other officials said the devices contained in the envelopes were all similar to the one found in the mailbox of the Soros home and later detonated by police. At least one bomb was packed with shards of glass, one federal source said.