Authorities have arrested a Florida man in connection to at least 13 explosive devices that were sent this week to a group of prominent Democrats and Trump critics, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, and Sen. Cory Booker.
Cesar Sayoc Jr., 56, was charged with five counts that include including threatening former presidents and illegal sending of explosives through the mail. He faces up to 58 years in prison if convicted. According to the criminal complaint against him, Sayoc included his targets' photographs crossed with a red X in the packages. He was identified as the suspect because a DNA sample collected from the devices matched that taken during one of his previous arrests.
The devices, which resembled pipe bombs, were mailed to political targets frequently criticized by President Donald Trump and right-wing figures. Trump made an effort to condemn the violence, saying "acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America." But then he went on to blame the media for the attacks and the "anger we see today in our society," even though he frequently has peddled conspiracy theories about the bomb targets and has used inflammatory rhetoric against his political enemies.
On Friday, Trump seemed to cast doubt on the veracity of the attacks and encouraged his voters to focus on the midterm election instead, tweeting: "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. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote."
That talking point came from certain right-wing figures, who alleged the packages were a "false flag" or hoax created by liberals to blame conservatives ahead of the election. But at a press conference Friday afternoon, FBI Director Christopher Wray made it clear that the explosives were real and dangerous. "Though we’re still analyzing these devices in our laboratory," he said, "these were not hoax devices."
Ahead, everything we know so far about the attempted bombings. We'll continue to update this story as more information comes to light.
Who is behind the attempts?
Sayoc is a registered Republican and has an extensive criminal history that extends to the early 1990s, NBC reported. He lives in Aventura, FL, near a mail facility from which some of the explosive devices were sent from. A white van reportedly belonging to Sayoc was plastered with Trump's presidential seal and right-ring propaganda. “It was puppets with their heads cut off, mannequins with their heads cut off, Ku Klux Klan, a black person being hung, anti-gay symbols, torchings, bombings you name it, it was all over his truck,” his former employer told the Washington Post.
Who is Cesar Sayoc? Information on the suspect currently in custody in South Florida in the nationwide mail bomb package case: https://t.co/cRPpW9MwTm pic.twitter.com/cZEKLbRBFz— NBC 6 South Florida (@nbc6) October 26, 2018
Who were the targets of the possible explosives?
George Soros: The philanthropist billionaire, who is the frequent target of right-wing and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, received a suspicious package at his home in New York Monday. The explosive device was detonated by the authorities.
Hillary Clinton: The package aimed at the former secretary of state was intercepted late Tuesday during a routine mail inspection conducted by the Secret Service. It was addressed to the Clintons' residence in New York.
President Barack Obama: The package was intercepted early Wednesday during a routine mail inspection conducted by the Secret Service. It was addressed to Obama's D.C. office.
John Brennan: A "live explosive device" addressed to the former CIA director and MSNBC contributor was delivered to CNN's offices in New York City. Authorities also found an envelope containing white powder, though they latter said the substance didn't pose a biological threat.
Eric Holder: A suspicions package was addressed to the former attorney general, but its return address was Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Florida office. Schultz is also the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). After failing to reach Holder, the package was received at Schultz's office Wednesday.
Rep. Maxine Waters: The Democratic congresswoman was targeted with two packages Wednesday: One sent to her office in Washington, D.C. and another was found at a postal office in Los Angeles.
Joe Biden: Authorities located two packages addressed to the former vice president, both found at two separate Delaware post offices.
Robert De Niro: The actor and Clinton donor received the package at the New York office of his company TriBeCa Productions on Wednesday and authorities removed it early Thursday after an employee called the NYPD.
Sen. Cory Booker: On Friday morning, authorities said they had discovered a suspicious package addressed to the New Jersey Democrat at a at a postal facility in Opa-locka, FL.
James Clapper: A package addressed to the former director of national intelligence was found by authorities at a mail sorting facility in New York. The package was meant to be sent to CNN's New York offices, since Clapper is a contributor at the network.
Kamala Harris: A package meant for the California Democrat was found at a post office in Sacramento.
This story was originally published on October 25, 2018. It has since been updated.