Mail bomb in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­ten­si­fies

New pack­ages tar­get ac­tor De Niro, for­mer vice pres­i­dent Bi­den

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Devlin Bar­rett, Mark Ber­man and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

The morn­ing af­ter pipe bombs mailed to prom­i­nent Democrats and CNN put the coun­try on edge and sent law en­force­ment of­fi­cials scram­bling to pre­vent any more pack­ages from reach­ing their tar­gets, po­lice in New York swarmed a block in lower Man­hat­tan af­ter re­ceiv­ing re­ports of a sus­pi­cious pack­age at a build­ing where ac­tor Robert De Niro has of­fices, as well as two ad­dressed to for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

The pack­age dis­cov­ered in Man­hat­tan’s Tribeca neigh­bor­hood early Thurs­day ap­peared sim­i­lar to ones sent to po­lit­i­cal fig­ures ear­lier this week con­tain­ing home­made bombs, a law en­force­ment of­fi­cial said. Video from the scene showed the NYPD bomb squad re­mov­ing the pack­age in a bomb dis­posal truck.

“We are re­spond­ing to re­ports of a sus­pi­cious pack­age in the vicin­ity of Greenwich and Franklin streets in Tribeca, Man­hat­tan,” the NYPD said. “Please avoid the area and ex­pect a po­lice pres­ence and heavy traf­fic.”

The FBI an­nounced two more sus­pected pipe bombs were found Thurs­day in mail fa­cil­i­ties in Delaware

ad­dressed to for­mer vice pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump blamed the me­dia Thurs­day for a “very big part of the Anger we see to­day in our so­ci­ety,” as law en­force­ment scram­bled to find those re­spon­si­ble. A day af­ter CNN’s New York head­quar­ters were evac­u­ated af­ter re­ceiv­ing one of the de­vices, Trump lashed out at the me­dia on Twit­ter.

“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!”

The com­ments were the lat­est in Trump’s long-run­ning at­tacks against the me­dia. And they came as au­thor­i­ties were in­ter­cept­ing more sus­pi­cious pack­ages ad­dressed to De Niro and Bi­den.

Those “en­gaged in the po­lit­i­cal arena” must “stop treat­ing po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents as be­ing morally de­fec­tive,” Trump said Wed­nes­day at a cam­paign rally. He also ref­er­enced high-pro­file in­ci­dents in which con­ser­va­tives have been ac­costed in res­tau­rants and pub­lic spa­ces by po­lit­i­cal crit­ics.

He added: “The me­dia also has a re­spon­si­bly to set a civil tone and to stop the end­less hos­til­ity and con­stant neg­a­tive and of­ten­times false at­tacks and sto­ries.”

Trump has fre­quently la­beled sto­ries he doesn’t like as “fake news” and many re­porters as “ene­mies of the peo­ple.” He has also de­nounced his po­lit­i­cal ene­mies in deeply per­sonal terms and even de­scribed those who tried to thwart his sec­ond Supreme Court nom­i­nee as “evil.”

The hunt for a se­rial mail bomber be­gan late Tues­day night when 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. A sim­i­larly pack­aged bomb was found hours later in mail ad­dressed to for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

Nei­ther bomb got close to its in­tended tar­get, and nei­ther con­tained a writ­ten mes­sage, ac­cord­ing to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials, but the twin dis­cov­er­ies led to other un­det­o­nated de­vices be­ing found else­where, in­clud­ing in the mail­room at CNN’s New York head­quar­ters and a dis­trict of­fice of Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, D-Fla.

As more de­vices were dis­cov­ered, a dis­turb­ing pat­tern emerged— the bomber or bombers ap­peared to be tar­get­ing prom­i­nent fig­ures on the po­lit­i­cal left.

The first such pack­age was dis­cov­ered Mon­day at the New York home of Ge­orge Soros, a bil­lion­aire ac­tivist known to fund prodemoc­racy and lib­eral po­lit­i­cal groups.

De Niro had at­tacked Trump in June, dur­ing a pro­fane pre­sen­ta­tion at the Tony Awards.

“(Ex­ple­tive) Trump,” he said then. “It’s no longer down with Trump,” he said, “but (ex­ple­tive) Trump.”

Days later, Trump fired back on Twit­ter, “Robert De Niro, a very Low IQ in­di­vid­ual, has re­ceived too many shots to the head by real box­ers in movies. I watched him last night and truly be­lieve he may be “punch­drunk.’ I guess he doesn’t...”

Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell and other of­fi­cials de­scribed the de­vices dis­cov­ered this week as at­tempted acts of ter­ror­ism, and the au­thor­i­ties cau­tioned that the num­ber of bombs — and in­tended vic­tims — could grow. FBI Di­rec­tor Christo­pher A. Wray is­sued an ap­peal for the pub­lic’s help to catch the bomber and warned peo­ple not to touch sus­pi­cious pack­ages.

Law en­force­ment of­fi­cials de­scribed the de­vices as pipes stuffed with ex­plo­sive ma­te­rial and wrapped in elec­tri­cal wire and tape, but they pro­vided no de­tail on how they would have been det­o­nated.

The FBI, the Se­cret Ser- vice, the NYPD and other agen­cies kicked into high gear Wed­nes­day morn­ing try­ing to de­ter­mine who was be­hind the bombs — and how many more may be en route to in­tended vic­tims. At least two of the de­vices ap­peared to have been hand- de­liv­ered, ac­cord­ing to law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

“We will not rest un­til we stop these haz­ardous de­vices from be­ing mailed and bring the in­di­vid­ual or in­di­vid­u­als to jus­tice,” said C. Bryan Paar­mann, an FBI coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial. The de­vices have been sent to the FBI’s lab in Quan­tico, Vir­ginia, for fur­ther anal­y­sis.

On Wed­nes­day night, the FBI is­sued a state­ment say­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tors found “two ad­di­tional pack­ages, both ad­dressed to Rep. Max­ine Waters, that are sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance” to the other five.

In a state­ment, Waters, D- Calif., said she had been told by po­lice that her of­fice “was the tar­get of a sus­pi­cious pack­age that has been re­ferred to the FBI. I am ap­pre­cia­tive of the law en­force­ment en­ti­ties who in­ter­cepted the pack­age and are in­ves­ti­gat­ing this mat­ter. I un­equiv­o­cally con­demn any and all acts of vi­o­lence and ter­ror.”

SETH WENIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Port Author­ity po­lice watch traf­fic near the en­trance to the Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., on Thurs­day.

DREW AN­GERER — GETTY IM­AGES

Peo­ple stand in­side a New York City build­ing where a sus­pi­cious pack­age ad­dressed to ac­tor Robert De Niro was found early Thurs­day. The build­ing in the Tribeca neigh­bor­hood houses De Niro’s pro­duc­tion com­pany and his Tribeca Grill restau­rant.

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