Investigators zero in on crude bombs

Published 9:26 am Friday, October 26, 2018

No motive, suspects in 10 packages sent to Democrats

WASHINGTON (AP) — Investigators probing crude pipe bombs sent to prominent critics of President Donald Trump are trying to determine whether the devices were intended to detonate or simply to sow fear, law enforcement officials told The Associated Press Thursday.

The officials said the devices were not rigged like a booby-trapped package bomb that would explode upon opening. They had timers and batteries but never went off. Law enforcement officials were still uncertain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name.

The details about the devices came as the four-day mail-bomb scare widened. Law enforcement officials seized three more devices Thursday — two addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden and one to actor Robert De Niro — described as similar to the devices sent to former President  Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, CNN and others.

The new discoveries brought to at least 10 the number of suspicious packages targeting Democrats but intercepted by authorities this week.

Much was still unanswered about the devices, including how they were delivered, and authorities have said nothing about suspects. Details suggest only a broad pattern — that the items were packaged in manila envelopes, addressed to prominent Trump critics and carried U.S. postage stamped. Some were discovered in mail processing facilities.

The packages stoked nationwide tensions and fears two weeks before major congressional midterm elections. Even with the sender still unknown, politicians from both parties used the moment to decry a toxic political climate and lay blame.

The explosive devices were packed in envelopes with bubble-wrap interiors bearing six American flag stamps and the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee who was accused by Clinton rivals of secretly helping the party’s eventual presidential nominee.

The bombs seized Wednesday, each with a small battery, were about six inches long and packed with powder and broken glass, according to a law enforcement official who viewed X-ray images.

The official said the devices were made from PVC pipe and covered with black tape.

The packages discovered Thursday set off a new wave of alarm.

Two officials told The Associated Press that a person working at De Niro’s Manhattan office called police after seeing images of a package bomb sent to CNN and recalling a similar package addressed to the actor. De Niro’s office is located in the TriBeCa Film Center in lower Manhattan, and also includes an upscale restaurant and private screening room.

The packages addressed to Biden were intercepted at Delaware mail facilities in New Castle and Wilmington, according to a law enforcement official who, like others, wasn’t authorized to discuss the investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

As the scope of the attack became clearer Wednesday, Trump decried political violence during a scripted event in the White House East Room, and other members of the administration said violence has no place in American society.

Later at a rally in Wisconsin, he urged unity. But at the same event, he blamed the news media and on Twitter Thursday kept up the argument that the media play a role.