Washington D.C., USA : The Secret Service, the law enforcement agency that protects current and former US governmental officials, said on Wednesday that it intercepted two suspicious packages – explosive devices mailed to the residences of Bill and Hillary Clinton, in Chappaqua, New York, and former President Barack Obama in Washington, DC.
The one sent to Clinton was found at her home in Westchester County New York, the agency said in a news release. The package addressed to Obama was intercepted by Secret Service personnel in Washington, it said.
“The Secret Service has initiated a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible,” the Secret Service said in a statement.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the release said.
Neither Clinton nor Obama were at risk of receiving the packages, the Secret Service said.
The Secret Service is investigating to determine who sent the packages.
The devices were similar to one found on Monday at the home of the billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
Soros’ foundation on Tuesday attacked the “hateful rhetoric” dominating US politics after the suspicious package was found.
The White House condemned the attempted violence to President Trump’s political rivals on Wednesday as suspicious packages were intercepted by the Secret Service en route to the residences of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
‘We condemn the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures. These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,’ a statement from White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.
‘The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.’
CNN’s office in New York City was evacuated on Wednesday amid reports of a suspicious package, authorities and employees said.
The network was broadcasting live when a fire alarm went off in the Time Warner Center in midtown Manhattan.
Footage showed anchors Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow explaining that a fire alarm had gone off, while employees could be seen leaving the studio. They cut to commercial.
CNN reporters tweeted photos showing a heavy police response at the scene:
The NYPD advised people to avoid the Columbus Circle area due to the heavy police activity there.
“Officers are investigating a suspicious package in Columbus Circle,” the NYPD tweeted. “Please avoid the area. Expect a police presence and heavy traffic in the area.”
CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, told employees in a statement that the package was received in the building’s mailroom, and he is “working with authorities to determine the severity of the situation.”
He added that the network is checking all of its bureaus around the world “out of a complete abundance of caution.”
The incident came amid news that the Secret Service had intercepted explosive devices mailed to the residences of Bill and Hillary Clinton, in Chappaqua, New York, and former President Barack Obama in Washington, DC.
The office of Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz was also evacuated after a suspicious package was mailed to the premises. This news comes after similar packages were sent to the Clintons, the Obamas and the CNN offices. The package that arrived was originally addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder and had Wasserman Schultz’s office as the return address.
A fifth device apparently intended for the man who served as Mr. Obama’s attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., was misaddressed and because Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s name was on the return address, it was ultimately delivered to her district office in Florida, a law enforcement official said.
Then later, on Wednesday afternoon, another package addressed to another Democrat, Representative Maxine Waters of California, was intercepted at a Congressional mail facility, according to a Democratic official briefed on the investigation. In recent months, Ms. Waters has been a frequent target of Mr. Trump.
A senior law enforcement official in New York, describing the bomb sent to CNN, said it was intercepted in the basement mailroom and resembled the others: “Same package. Same device.”
That device was constructed from a length of pipe a little longer than six inches and wrapped in black tape with what appeared to be epoxy on the ends, according to a person who had seen a photograph of it. What could be a timer was attached to the side of the pipe and wires were visible at both ends. Like the bomb sent to Mr. Soros’s home, the envelope it arrived in was roughly 5-by-8 inches and had a printed white address label and half a dozen first-class postage stamps affixed to the outside.
On Wednesday afternoon, New York City’s police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said the CNN bomb was “a live explosive device” and that it would be rendered harmless and sent to the F.B.I. to be analyzed. The package that contained the device also included white powder that the police were testing to determine if it is toxic, he said.
One of the envelopes sent out had several stamps on it, more postage than it needed to be delivered, according to a former law enforcement official briefed on the investigation. The extra postage led investigators to believe that the person who mailed it wanted to avoid going to a post office to buy the correct postage — a step to evade detection, the official said.
The statement from the Secret Service also said: “The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such. The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
The agency also said it had “initiated a full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
Mr. Soros’s home is in Katonah, a hamlet in Westchester. That device was constructed from a length of pipe about six inches long filled with explosive powder, and it was “proactively detonated” by bomb squad technicians, according to one of the officials, all of whom were briefed on the investigation. It was rigged with a detonator, and it could have maimed or possibly killed someone had it exploded near them.
A federal official said law enforcement agencies were closely examining possible ties between the packages and the one sent to Mr. Soros, who has come under fierce criticism from conservatives and conspiracy theorists. The connection was being “strongly considered,” said the federal law enforcement official, who would only speak on condition of anonymity because the investigations were ongoing.
While the investigation is in its earliest stages, the recovery on Wednesday of the devices and the envelopes that contained them could potentially provide federal agents with a trove of leads and evidence. It could allow them to assess the sophistication of, and care taken, by the person or persons who built and mailed the bombs.
Bomb technicians will likely seek to defuse the devices and try to determine where their components were purchased or the bombs were made. Evidence technicians may attempt to recover traces of DNA or fingerprints from the components and the envelopes that contained the bombs.
Federal agents with the United States Postal Inspection Service could play an important role in the investigation if any of the packages were delivered through the U.S. mail. They would examine the postage and postmarks and seek to determine where they were mailed from. Investigators could examine surveillance video at post offices and around blue letter boxes where the packages may have been deposited.
It is unclear where exactly the package addressed to Mrs. Clinton was sent. A security guard at the Clinton Foundation’s Midtown Manhattan offices said the explosive device was addressed to Mrs. Clinton’s home in Westchester, not her offices.
The news of the devices set off a small wave of false reports. Some media outlets reported that a similar device had been addressed to President Trump at the White House, until the Secret Service debunked the account.
Early this month, federal authorities said they intercepted multiple packages suspected of containing the lethal substance ricin, addressed to President Trump and at least two top Pentagon officials. In February, an envelope containing a white powdery substance that investigators later determined was cornstarch was sent to the Manhattan apartment of Donald Trump Jr.’s mother-in-law.