Explosive devices sent to public figures who have tense histories with Trump

The recipients have gone up against Trump and been targets of his criticism.

October 25, 2018, 1:11 PM

Hours after multiple explosive devices were found or intercepted at addresses around the country belonging to a number of public figures who have criticized President Donald Trump and who have frequently been targets of his ire, the president called for all sides to "come together in peace and harmony."

None of the devices that were delivered throughout the week went off, and no one was injured. Investigators have not identified the motive behind the attempted deliveries of the explosives, which law enforcement officials described as "pipe bomb-like devices." Investigators also have not confirmed how many suspects were involved or whether the deliveries, the first of which were reported Monday, were connected.

"Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy, itself. No nation can succeed that tolerates violence or the threat of violence as a method of political intimidation, coercion, or control," Trump said at a campaign rally in Wisconsin Wednesday night.

President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton acknowledge the crowd on the third day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 27, 2016 in Philadelphia.
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

"There is one way to settle our disagreements. It's called peacefully at the ballot box. That's what we want. That's what we want. As part of a larger national effort to bridge our divides and bring people together," he said Wednesday night and sought praise from the audience for how "nice I'm behaving today."

The president made no mention of former President Barack Obama, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, CNN or any of the other Democrats and public figures targeted by explosive devices this week.

Speaking to reporters Thursday morning at the White House, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly denied that the president deserves any responsibility for the state of national discourse and specifically addressed suggestions that the president's rhetoric is connected to the motive for delivering any explosive devices.

“The president has condemned violence in all forms and he’ll continue to do so but certainly feels that everyone has a role to play,” Sanders said.

However, Trump has frequently mentioned and disparaged top Democrats and public figures targeted by the packages before, either at campaign rallies or on social media.

Authorities are investigating multiple packages in the government's domestic terrorism investigation, sources told ABC News, including a package law enforcement may have intercepted addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden.

That package, confirmed by authorities on Thursday morning, was similar to those containing explosive devices sent to Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN's New York headquarters and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Officials also said they intercepted two suspicious packages addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., that matched the descriptions of explosive devices sent to Clinton, Obama, and other prominent figures in New York and Washington.

Of those who have been targeted, Trump often refers to CNN as "Fake News CNN," frequently calls Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a "low IQ individual," and refers to Clinton, his former political opponent – often the target of "lock her up" chants at rallies – as "crooked Hillary Clinton."

Representative Maxine Waters looks on before speaking to reports regarding the Russia investigation on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 9, 2018.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

After reports surfaced of the package delivered to her home in Chappaqua, New York, Clinton told a campaign rally in Florida: "Every day we are grateful for their commitment, and obviously never more than today, but it is a troubling time, isn't it, and its a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together."

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who was the addressee of the package delivered to CNN, said Wednesday night that Trump "has helped to incite" feelings of anger and violence. Brennan, whose security clearance the president said he revoked in August and whom the president has called a "partisan, political hack, commented on the packages at a previously planned event in Houston, Texas.

"Unfortunately, I think Donald Trump, too often, has helped to incite some of these feelings of anger, if not violence, when he points to acts of violence or also talks about, you know, swinging at somebody from the press or the media," Brennan said and urged the audience to "unite."

Brennan is not a CNN contributor but is frequently on the network's news shows.

CNN and other news publications are frequently mentioned on the president's Twitter feed, and in July of 2017, the president tweeted an edited version of a video that showed him punching a person whose face had been covered by a CNN logo.

A frequent chant at Trump's rallies, "CNN sucks" erupted Monday from the crowd at a Houston rally the president held with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

"Don't worry. I don't like them either, OK?" Trump said to the crowd.

Waters is also frequently mentioned at Trump's rallies, often as an example of what the president tells his supporters they should vote against in the midterms.

In June, Trump tweeted Waters "called for harm" to his supporters and said the congresswoman should "be careful" what she wished for. Waters encouraged supporters to publicly confront Trump administration officials over the so-called "zero-tolerance" approach to immigration.

Waters lauded law enforcement for intercepting the package, which was found by U.S. Capitol Police. "I unequivocally condemn any and all acts of violence and terror," she added.

In a joint statement after the president's remarks Wednesday, where he spoke of unity and togetherness in the face of "political violence," leaders of the Democratic Party Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi said the president's promises will "ring hollow until he reverses his statements that condone acts of violence."

Former presidential candidate and Republican candidate for Senate in Utah Mitt Romney also spoke out following reports of the suspicious packages, calling them "sadly unsurprising" and a sign that it's time to "turn down and tune out the rabid rhetoric."

"Hate acts follow hate speech," he said.

Speaking at his "Make American Great Again" rally Wednesday night, the president made light of his own change in tone.

"By the way, do you see how nice I'm behaving today?" Trump said. "Have you ever seen this? We're all behaving very well. And hopefully, we can keep it that way. We're gonna keep it that way."