Pipe bombs sent to Obama, Clintons, CNN and Soros believed to be linked
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Package sent to CNN contained live explosive, white powder

Pipe bombs sent to Obama, Clintons, CNN and Soros believed to be linked

US officials intercept explosives targeting prominent Democrats and news network two weeks before sharply polarizing elections

New York City Police Dept. officers arrive outside the Time Warner Center, in New York on October 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
New York City Police Dept. officers arrive outside the Time Warner Center, in New York on October 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Crude pipe bombs targeting Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, CNN and others were intercepted Tuesday night and Wednesday in a rash of attacks aimed at prominent Democrats and a cable news network often criticized by political conservatives.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his office received a similar package, and the FBI said Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz did too. A similar device was found Monday at the New York compound of liberal billionaire George Soros, a major contributor to Democratic causes.

There were no explosions and no reports of injuries.

The bombs were intercepted two weeks before nationwide elections that could reshape Congress and serve as a referendum on the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.

The events quickly overtook other campaign news in an already-tense political season, which has included pitched fights over immigration, the Supreme Court and sexual violence against women.

The White House quickly condemned the attacks aimed at Democrats and perceived foes of the administration. Republican Vice President Mike Pence said they “have no place in this country,” and Trump tweeted, “I agree wholeheartedly.”

A New York Police Department Bomb Squad officer (R) walks out of the Time Warner Building on October 24, 2018. (Timothy A. Clark/AFP)

All the confirmed bombs appeared to come from the same person or persons, said John Miller, the New York Police Department’s head of intelligence and counterterrorism, who briefed reporters in New York.

The US Secret Service intercepted a bomb that was addressed to Hillary Clinton at the Chappaqua, New York, home she shares with former President Bill Clinton, and another that was sent to former President Obama at his home with Michelle Obama in Washington.

A police bomb squad removed still another from CNN’s New York headquarters, which was evacuated.

Overhead TV shots showed a truck carrying that device, which law enforcement officials said was linked to the other explosives, being driven away. The package sent to CNN contained a live explosive and envelope with white powder, and officials said the substance was being tested to see if it was dangerous.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which has a midtown Manhattan office in the same building as Cuomo, said it was on “alert” during the bomb scare.

Cuomo said at a briefing that “we will not allow these terrorist thugs to change the way we live our lives.”

A US official told The Associated Press that investigators believe the explosive that was discovered near the Clintons’ home was linked to one found Monday at the Soros compound.

US President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton hold hands as they walk off stage after both spoke at a rally at Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Monday, November 7, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The official noted that one of the packages had the return address of Florida Rep. Schultz, an ironic reference to the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who was accused by Clinton rivals of secretly helping the party’s eventual presidential nominee.

Neither Clinton nor Obama received the packages, and neither was at risk of receiving them because of screening procedures, the Secret Service said.

Police inspect near the offices of Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz after a suspicious package was found October 24, 2018 in Sunrise, Florida. (Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP)

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trump himself confined his remarks to retweeting a condemnation from Vice President Mike Pence against the “cowardly” acts, adding: “I agree wholeheartedly!”

Clinton, speaking in Miami, thanked the Secret Service for intercepting the package and raised concerns about what she called a “troubling time” in America.

“It’s a time of deep divisions, and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together,” she said.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio condemned “an effort to terrorize” as he and fellow Democrat Cuomo appealed to all elected officials, including a veiled reference to the US president, to tone down rhetoric.

“Don’t encourage violence, don’t encourage hatred, don’t encourage attacks on media,” said the mayor. The Republican president came under a torrent of criticism for recently endorsing the body slamming of a reporter.

“Unfortunately this atmosphere of hatred is contributing to the choices people are making,” said de Blasio. “The way to stop that is turn back the other way, to bring down the temperature, to end any messages of violence against people we disagree with and this has to start at the top.”

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neil, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo attend a news conference outside the Time Warner Building on October 24, 2018, after an explosive device was delivered to CNN’s New York bureau. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

There has been no claim of responsibility and no one was yet thought to have been arrested.

Two law enforcement officials, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the pipe bomb at CNN was crude but operational and was addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, who regularly appears as a television contributor and who has publicly clashed with Trump. They said it was similar to other explosives discovered in the past few days.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., is interviewed in New York on March 21, 2016. (AP/Richard Drew)

Clinton was attending campaign events for Democrats in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday and was not at the family’s New York residence at the time. Bill Clinton was at the family’s Chappaqua home at the time the package was intercepted Tuesday night at a Westchester County facility, said a person familiar with his schedule. The person said the device was screened at the facility — not in proximity to their residence — and never reached the Clintons’ home.

A law enforcement official told the AP that the package discovered at Soros’ home appeared to be a pipe bomb and was in a package placed in a mailbox outside the gates of the compound. A Soros employee opened it just inside the gates, not near Soros’ quarters, the official said.

Soros has long been a hate figure for right-wing groups.

The entrance to a house owned by philanthropist George Soros is seen in Katonah, New York, a suburb of New York City, on October 23, 2018. (AP/Seth Wenig)

The 88-year-old hedge fund tycoon is one of the world’s richest men with an estimated net worth of $8.3 billion and a prominent philanthropist.

Soros supported Clinton, Trump’s election rival in 2016, and has been accused by nationalists the world over of sponsoring protests and seeking to push a liberal, multicultural agenda.

Earlier this month, Trump accused Soros of paying demonstrators to protest against the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of attempted rape in high school.

In this photo from January 26, 2013, George Soros attends the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos. (Eric Piermont/AFP)

Soros has also been falsely accused of funding the caravan of migrants moving north from Honduras through Mexico en route to the US border.

In an op-ed in The New York Times, Soros’ son Alexander laid blame on  Trump for the atmosphere that led to the bomb being placed at his father’s house.

Alexander Soros, the deputy chairman of his father’s philanthropy, the Open Society Foundations. said his father had faced “plenty of attacks along the way, many dripping with the poison of anti-Semitism.”

But such attacks moved from the extremist fringes closer to the mainstream during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

“White supremacists and anti-Semites like David Duke endorsed his campaign,” wrote Soros. “Mr. Trump’s final TV ad famously featured my father; Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs — all of them Jewish — amid dog-whistle language about ‘special interests’ and ‘global special interests.’ A genie was let out of the bottle, which may take generations to put back in, and it wasn’t confined to the United States.”

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