Mail bomb investigation intensifies
New packages target actor De Niro, former vice president Biden
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.”
Port Authority police watch traffic near the entrance to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee, N.J., on Thursday.
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.