Suspicious packages sent to Biden and De Niro; Trump blames media for stirring ‘anger’

Suspicious packages addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro were recovered by law enforcement officials on Thursday, a day after a series of apparent pipe bombs targeting top Democrats and CNN triggered a nationwide manhunt for a possible serial bomber.

The suspicious package addressed to De Niro was recovered in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood early Thursday, and removed by the NYPD bomb squad. A retired NYPD detective who had delivered the package to De Niro’s offices recalled doing so after seeing an image of the other suspicious packages on television, and called the bomb squad directly.

According to the Associated Press, X-rays showed the package contained a device similar to those addressed to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, ex-CIA Director John Brennan, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

Two packages addressed to Biden were intercepted at mail facilities in Delaware. A reporter for Philadelphia’s local Fox affiliate shared images of one of them — a padded yellow envelope that appeared nearly identical to the one addressed to Brennan. It included a mailing label with a return address belonging to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., the former leader of the Democratic National Committee. Wasserman Schultz’s offices in Florida were evacuated Wednesday after a suspicious package addressed to Holder was found returned there.

The computer-printed mailing label on the envelope also included Biden’s full name, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.

 

The AP reported a second package addressed to Biden was intercepted at a mail facility in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday morning.

Federal authorities also intercepted two separate packages addressed to Waters — one at a congressional mail facility in Maryland, the other at a mail center in California.

All of the intended recipients of the suspicious packages have been outspoken critics — and occasional targets — of President Trump.

Trump, who initially condemned the “threats of political violence,” seemed to point blame at the media in a tweet Thursday morning.

“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,” the president tweeted. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

The tweet drew an immediate response from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who urged voters to turn out in November.

“Rise up, America,” Murphy tweeted. “The President of the United States is now blaming the attempted murder of Democrats on press criticism of him. I didn’t think his narcissism could sink to this ugly of a place. But it has. And now we need to vote.”

Brennan also responded to Trump in a tweet.

“Stop blaming others,” Brennan wrote. “Look in the mirror. Your inflammatory rhetoric, insults, lies, & encouragement of physical violence are disgraceful. Clean up your act … try to act Presidential. The American people deserve much better. BTW, your critics will not be intimidated into silence.”

At the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s sharp tone, including his description of Democrats who opposed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh as “evil.”

Sanders blasted the media, and CNN in particular, for what she described as a “negative tone.”

“Ninety percent of the media attention around this president is negative,” she said. “You guys continue to focus only on the negative.”

Sanders also said the president has no plans of toning down his divisive rhetoric on the campaign trail. And she dismissed the notion that Trump should bear responsibility for a toxic political environment that may have inspired the bomb maker.

“The idea that this is at the hands of the president is absolutely ridiculous,” she said.

Police stand watch near a building associated with Robert De Niro in New York on Thursday. (Photo: Mark Lennihan/AP)

 

The scenes in Tribeca and Delaware were reminiscent of those that played out in several locations on Wednesday. The U.S. Secret Service said it intercepted packages containing “potentially explosive devices” addressed to Obama’s home in Washington, D.C., and Clinton’s home in Chappaqua, N.Y. A suspicious package containing a similar device, addressed to Brennan, was found in the mailroom of the Time Warner Center, forcing the evacuation of the building that houses CNN’s New York headquarters.

The NYPD used a “total containment vessel” — a spherical chamber, mounted on the back of a truck, that limits shrapnel and other damage in the event of an explosion — to haul away the devices addressed to Brennan and De Niro. A similar vehicle was used by authorities to remove the device addressed to Biden.

On Monday, a pipe bomb was found in the Bedford, N.Y., mailbox of Soros, a prominent Democratic donor who has long been the target of conservative conspiracies.

Clockwise from top left to right: Actor Robert De Niro, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, billionaire philanthropist George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former CIA director John Brennan, former Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. (Reuters/File)

The flurry of suspicious packages produced several false alarms. In San Diego, a suspicious package found caused a brief evacuation in a building where Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., has an office. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his office in Manhattan received a package similar to the ones sent to Obama, Clinton and CNN. It was later determined to be unrelated and harmless.

But both Cuomo and FBI officials warned there could be more devices yet to be recovered.

“I would expect more,” Cuomo said on CNN.

The investigation is focusing on leads in Florida, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed a federal law enforcement source.

At a press conference in New York City late Thursday afternoon, FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney would not confirm or deny that report.

“This is a nationwide investigation,” Sweeney said.

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