FBI Investigates Pipe Bombs Sent To Democrats

Oct 25, 2018
Originally published on October 25, 2018 8:40 am
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

New York police are investigating another suspicious package this morning. It was sent to the home of the actor Robert De Niro in Manhattan's Tribeca neighborhood. This comes after seven apparent pipe bombs were sent to top Democrats, political opponents of President Trump. Now, we should say the president's political career is in part defined by his willingness to openly mock people he disagrees with. But Trump right now is calling for civility.

NOEL KING, HOST:

That's right. At a rally last night in Wisconsin, Trump condemned this act. And so far, authorities haven't released any information about a possible suspect.

GREENE: All right. And let's turn now to NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and NPR's justice reporter Ryan Lucas to talk through all of this.

Good morning to you both.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: All right, Ryan, I want to start with you. It seems like there were at least seven of these devices mailed out. Who were these suspicious packages meant for?

LUCAS: Well, the first was found Monday outside the New York home of the billionaire investor George Soros, who of course is also a big contributor to Democratic causes. The others were then discovered addressed to Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, Obama's former attorney general, Eric Holder, and his former CIA director, John Brennan.

Now, the package that was intended for Brennan was actually sent to the CNN office in New York and discovered in the mail room there yesterday. And then late last night, the FBI said that it had confirmed two more suspicious packages that were very similar in appearance to the other five. These two were addressed to Maxine Waters. She's a California Democrat in the House who has been a very sharp critic of President Trump.

GREENE: So officials are already talking about these things as pipe bombs. They're using that term. What exactly are those? And who would have wanted to send pipe bombs to these people?

LUCAS: Well, in terms of who would have wanted to send them, we don't - we don't know at this point. There's no word on a possible suspect. This is still very early in the investigation. Now, as for the packages themselves, we know that they were sent in identical bubble-wrapped manila envelopes. They were - the addresses on them were all computer-printed. The return address on every single package was that of Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida.

Each package had six U.S. Postal Service stamps. The one that was actually addressed to former Attorney General Holder didn't make it to his office. It was returned to sender, the FBI says, so in that case to the address of Wasserman Schultz. She of course did not send these packages. She has said that she's very troubled, by the way, that her name has been used in all of this. And actually, her own office in Florida was evacuated yesterday because of a suspicious package there.

KING: Tam, let's turn this over to you for a minute. I mean, this is a pretty unusual moment in the country's recent history. How has the president been reacting?

KEITH: The president has been reacting in the way that you would expect a president to react. He has condemned any acts or threats of political violence, saying that it's an attack on our democracy itself. And in his rally speech last night, he also said, quote, "we want all sides to come together in peace and harmony." He's talking about wanting to turn down the temperature on some of the political rhetoric, maybe not attacking one's political enemies in moral terms. Now, the reality is that he has done just that, attacking his political enemies in moral terms. But he didn't do it last night.

KING: Yeah, it's interesting because the president's mood at these rallies is usually pretty upbeat, pretty combative. But it sounds like he was in a different kind of mood yesterday.

KEITH: Yeah, so this rally was at an airport - aircraft hangar in Wisconsin. And there was a big crowd of people. And it had all the trappings of a usual Trump rally, except that then the president simply read from the teleprompter. And he does this - it was almost like he went to a rally, and he delivered a speech that you'd see in the East Room of the White House. And he was - he was a bit self-conscious about that, sort of calling it out to his supporters there, saying, hey, look. Here's the clip.

(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And by the way, do you see how nice I'm behaving tonight? This is like - have you ever seen this? We're all behaving very well. And hopefully we can keep it that way, right?

KEITH: How long he keeps it that way is not clear. Often he will become teleprompter Trump for a while, and then he will switch back to rally Trump. And you just don't know when it's going to happen.

KING: If the president isn't saying anything directly about the people who were targeted, have any of them said anything?

KEITH: Yeah, that's right. He didn't say any of the names of the people who've been targeted. Often they are features of his rally speeches.

KING: Yeah.

KEITH: Hillary Clinton was speaking yesterday at an event. And she said that she is fine, thanks to the Secret Service. She called it a troubling time of deep divisions in the country.

KING: NPR's Tamara Keith and Ryan Lucas, thanks, you guys.

KEITH: You're welcome.

LUCAS: Thank you.

GREENE: And we will, of course, be following this story throughout the morning. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.