Two more Trump critics get suspicious packages

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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI (Reuters) – Police found two more suspicious packages on Friday addressed to U.S. Senator Cory Booker and James Clapper, the former U.S. director of national intelligence, as the hunt for the person who mailed bombs to prominent Democrats and critics of U.S. President Donald Trump focused on Florida.

The 11th package was addressed to Booker, the Democratic senator from New Jersey, and was discovered at a mail sorting facility in Florida, the FBI said. A 12th package was addressed to Clapper at cable network CNN and was intercepted at a New York City post office, a federal law enforcement official said.

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“This is definitely domestic terrorism, no question about it in my mind,” Clapper said in an interview with CNN. “This is not going to silence the administration’s critics.”

Trump said on Friday that the incidents were distracting from successful efforts by Republican candidates.

“Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!”

All the people targeted by the suspicious packages have often been maligned by right-wing critics. They included Democratic Party donor George Soros, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, and former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has said that at least five of the packages bore a return address from the Florida office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“This community will not stand for any attack on our democracy. We are not going to be knocked down by violence and by vitriol and by venom,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz told reporters on Friday.

‘HATEFUL’ MEDIA

There has been an outcry from Trump’s critics, who charged that his inflammatory rhetoric against Democrats and the press has created a climate for politically motivated violence.

After first calling for “unity” and civil discourse on Wednesday, Trump lashed out again Thursday at the “hateful” media. His supporters accused Democrats of unfairly suggesting the president was to blame for the bomb scare.

“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, “it’s just not Presidential!” Trump tweeted earlier on Friday.

Authorities believe the packages, which were intercepted before reaching their intended recipients, all went through the U.S. Postal Service at some point, a source said. None detonated and no one has been hurt.

The devices were thought to have been fashioned from bomb-making designs widely available on the internet, a federal law enforcement source told Reuters.

Still, investigators are treating the devices as “live” explosives, not a hoax, said James O’Neill, the New York City police commissioner.

Investigators have declined to say whether the devices were built to be functional. Bomb experts and security analysts say that based on their rudimentary construction it appeared they were more likely designed to sow fear rather than to kill.

Two federal officials involved in the investigation cautioned that it was too early to say whether the devices were incapable of firing or were deliberately designed to frighten rather than explode. One of the officials said such declarations might only encourage the bomb maker to construct more effective and deadly devices if the threat continues.

The parcels each consisted of a manila envelope with a bubble-wrap interior containing “potentially destructive devices,” the FBI said. Each was affixed with a computer-printed address label and six U.S. “Forever” postage stamps, the agency said.

Two packages were sent both to Waters and Biden. Others who received the bombs were former Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA director John Brennan, U.S. Representative Maxine Waters of California, and actor Robert De Niro.

“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” De Niro said in a statement. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People MUST vote!”

(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus, Gabriella Borter and Peter Szekely in New York, Mark Hosenball, Makini Brice and Susan Heavey in Washington, and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Jeffrey Benkoe)