Suspected explosive devices addressed to Cory Booker and James Clapper; probe expands to 12 packages
Authorities on Friday recovered two more potential explosive devices sent to public figures; the latest packages addressed to Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.
These packages - recovered in Florida and New York - push the total number of devices found by law enforcement authorities to 12. None have detonated, but all have pushed officials onto high alert as they worry about additional devices being delivered.
The FBI said a package, "similar in appearance to the others" found this week, was addressed to Booker and located in Florida.
Police in New York said they were responding to a suspicious package in midtown Manhattan, just blocks from where one of the explosive devices was found earlier this week at CNN's offices in the Time Warner Center.
A law enforcement official said that package was a device addressed to Clapper, a CNN contributor, and was addressed to him at the news network. It was found at a mail sorting facility in New York, the official said.
These newest packages come as authorities have intensified their hunt for a serial mail bomber who has sent packages to a string of political figures and others who have publicly criticized President Donald Trump. On Thursday, the FBI said three suspected pipe bombs were found - one in actor Robert De Niro's Manhattan office, and two in mail facilities in Delaware addressed to former vice president Joe Biden.
Those came on top of packages addressed to former president Barack Obama; former secretary of state Hillary Clinton; Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; Eric Holder Jr., Obama's first attorney general; and John Brennan, the former CIA director. The package addressed to Brennan was sent to CNN's New York offices.
One of the packages was recovered at a South Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., because her name was listed as the return address on the packages. Current and former investigators have said this suggested she was a possible target of the attacks.
All of the bomber's targets have clashed sharply with Trump at different times, and the spate of dangerous packages intensified the already full-throated political fights two weeks before congressional elections.
One lead being pursued by investigators is that some of the devices may have been mailed from south Florida, but officials were cautious Thursday and urged the public to call in with tips from anywhere.
The packages had many of the hallmarks of suspicious mail, including large block lettering and excessive postage aimed at making it harder to track, said Matthew Doherty, who formerly led the U.S. Secret Service's National Threat Assessment Center. And the fact that none detonated provides investigators with considerable evidence, he said.
"There's a rich treasure trove of forensic information since they were found intact," Doherty said. That means FBI investigators can "look for patterns such as the device, the technical expertise, the method of mailing, a whole host of great, rich forensic evidence that can be gathered."
Authorities appealed to the public for tips at a Thursday afternoon news conference in New York.
"We are investigating all of this with great precision and I can say with certainty that we will identify and arrest a person or people responsible for these acts," said NYPD Commissioner James P. O'Neill.
Officials on Thursday declined to say whether the devices were intended to detonate or were meant to scare people, but they repeatedly urged the public to view them as if they could pose a threat.
"We are treating them as live devices," said O'Neill, urging people not to touch packages they deem suspicious. "This is something that should be taken seriously."
William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director in charge of the FBI New York field office, asked people to remain vigilant, warning that more devices "have been or could be mailed." Sweeney said the powder contained in envelopes holding the devices found in New York did not pose any biological threat and said the substance was still being analyzed.
Law enforcement officials described the devices as PVC pipes stuffed with what appeared to be fireworks powder and glass. Electrical wires leading out of the pipe led to an electric timer taped to the pipe, according to law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation. Most of the devices appeared to have been sent through the mail system.
The FBI said the packages found so far had shared characteristics, including manila envelopes with bubble-wrapped interiors. They all also had a half-dozen Forever stamps, computer-printed address labels and return addresses bearing the misspelled name of Wasserman Schultz, who chaired the Democratic National Committee during part of the 2016 presidential campaign.
This article was written by Mark Berman and Devlin Barrett, reporters for The Washington Post.