The AP reports that federal authorities arrested a man in Florida on Friday in connection with the mail-bomb scare that widened to 12 suspicious packages. Person detained in the mail-bomb case:
Law enforcement officers were seen on television examining a white van, its windows covered with an assortment of [political] stickers, in the city of Plantation. They covered the vehicle with a blue tarp.
The man was in his 50s, a law enforcement official said, but his name and any charges he might face were not immediately known.
Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said authorities planned to announce more information at a press conference.
The development came amid a coast-to-coast manhunt for the person responsible for a series of explosive devices addressed to Democrats including former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
Law enforcement officials said they had intercepted a dozen packages in states across the country. None had exploded, and it wasn’t immediately clear if they were intended to cause physical harm or simply sow fear and anxiety.
Earlier Friday, authorities said suspicious packages addressed to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper — both similar to those containing pipe bombs sent to other prominent critics of President Donald Trump— had been intercepted.
The discoveries — making 12 so far — further spurred a coast-to-coast investigation, as officials scrambled to locate a culprit and possible motive amid questions about whether new packages were being sent or simply surfacing after a period in mail system.
The FBI said the package to Booker was intercepted in Florida. The one discovered at a Manhattan postal facility was addressed to Clapper at CNN’s address. An earlier package had been sent to former Obama CIA Director John Brennan via CNN in New York.
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Investigators were analyzing the innards of the crude devices to reveal whether they were intended to detonate or simply sow fear just before Election Day.
Law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the devices, containing timers and batteries, were not rigged to explode upon opening. But they were uncertain whether the devices were poorly designed or never intended to cause physical harm.
[O]ne official told AP that investigators are homing in on a postal facility in Opa-locka, Florida, where they believe some packages originated.
The package addressed to Booker was found during an oversight search of that facility, according to a law enforcement official.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name.
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The package to Clapper was addressed to him at CNN’s Midtown Manhattan address. Clapper, a frequent Trump critic, told CNN that he was not surprised he was targeted and that he considered the actions “definitely domestic terrorism.”
UPDATE: A thirteenth device, addressed to Senator Kamala Harris’s offices in California, is being investigated and may be connected.
Most of those targeted were past or present U.S. officials, but one was sent to actor Robert De Niro and billionaire George Soros. The bombs have been sent across the country – from New York, Delaware and Washington, D.C., to Florida and California, where Rep. Maxine Waters was targeted. They bore the return address of Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
The common thread among the bomb targets was obvious: their critical words for Trump and his frequent, harsher criticism in return.
UPDATE: The Washington Post later adds, Man in Florida arrested in connection with mail bombs sent to public figures:
The man has been identified as Cesar Sayoc, 56, according to a law enforcement official. Florida records show that Sayoc has a lengthy criminal record in the state, including a 2002 arrest for a bomb threat and others for larceny and fraud. An attorney who previously represented him in another case declined to comment on Friday.
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After news of the arrest broke, FBI agents and other law enforcement personnel could be seen in news footage draping a blue tarp over a van in a South Florida parking lot before loading it onto a truck and driving it away.
According to someone familiar with the investigation, the suspect in custody lives in Florida near a facility through which the packages were mailed. It remains unclear if he acted alone or had help, this person said.
The U.S. has been in the middle of the largest-scale terror by mail campaign since 2001, threatening to surpass the Unabomber in a far shorter period of time. This was a mass political assassination plot on a scale not seen since the plot to assassinate President Lincoln, no matter how poorly planned and executed. As Damon Linker writes at The Week, When America’s verbal violence turns real:
If the pipe bombs sent through the mail this week to two former presidents, a former presidential nominee, a former vice president, a former attorney general, a former CIA director, a sitting member of Congress, an outspoken actor, and a wealthy philanthropist and activist — all of them Democrats and/or staunch critics of President Trump — had exploded, killing or maiming their targets, this would have been hands-down the single most audacious act of domestic political terrorism, and potentially the single most ambitious act of political assassination, in our nation’s history.
Thankfully, none of the bombs exploded. No one was maimed or killed.
If President Barack Obama had gone forward with a campaign rally on Wednesday in the midst of such a terrorist attack, the conservative media entertainment complex would have been howling like a wounded dog demanding his impeachment for campaigning during during a terrorist attack on the U.S.
And yet, President Donald Trump went forward with a campaign rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday at which his MAGA deplorables warmed up with chants of “lock her up” for Hillary Clinton, and “CNN sucks!” — two of the intended targets of the mail-bomber earlier in the day.
And the conservative media entertainment complex from hate talk radio to conspiracy theory websites to FAUX News aka “Trump TV” personalities in unison asserted a conspiracy theory that the Democrats had concocted a “false flag” terrorist attack for the November election. Far-right media declare explosive devices sent to Obama and Clinton a false flag.
President Trump had issued the standard call for unity earlier in the day, but reverted to partisanship as usual at his rally, just in a softer tone of voice. After Bomb Scares, Trump Tries Bipartisanship, Then Blames the Media:
“By the way, do you see how nice I’m behaving tonight?” he asked. “Have you ever seen this? We’re all behaving very well!”
Trump proceeded to denounced Democrats and to blame the “fake news” media for being a victim of the mail-bomber.
[T]he performance by Trump and the slate of Wisconsin Republicans who took the stage here served as further confirmation that, with less than two weeks to go until a round of midterm elections in which the leadership of the House is at stake, not even reports of explosive devices could do much to halt months of highly divisive messaging at campaign rallies.
By the next day, the Twitter-troll-in-chief was again blaming the “Mainstream Media” and “Fake News” for the anger and division thriving in the United States.
“The day after several leading Democrats were found to have been targeted by package bombs, Republicans have identified one of their own as a victim: President Donald Trump.” GOP sees new bomb scare victim: Trump: The coordinated pushback echoes one of Trump’s most frequent reactions to harsh criticism: give no ground and shift the blame to others.
The AP report today adds:
Trump … complained that “this ‘bomb’ stuff” was taking attention away from the upcoming election and said critics were wrongly blaming him and his heated rhetoric.
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Trump claimed Friday he was being blamed for the mail bombs, complaining in a tweet sent before dawn:
For the egomaniacal man-child Twitter-troll-in-chief and the personality cult of Donald Trump, it is always about him.
UPDATE: Numerous social media accounts that appear to belong to Cesar Sayoc, the Florida man suspected of carrying out a string of mail bomb attacks this week are overflowing with far-right conspiracies and pro-Trump propaganda. Mail Bombings Suspect Appeared To Promote Trump, Conspiracies On Social Media:
Active Facebook accounts under the names Cesar Altieri and Cesar Altieri Randazzo and Twitter accounts under the names Cesar Altieri and Julus Cesar Milan are full of photographs of a man similar in appearance to mugshots of a Cesar Sayoc arrested repeatedly in Florida. Altieri appears to be a family name.
The accounts are packed with a steady stream of images of President Trump and Vice President Pence giving the thumbs up, of memes about the incoming “red tsunami” in the midterm elections, and of Democrats engaging in “bribery” and “corruption.”
The posts are full of misspellings, run-on sentences, and bizarre stream-of-consciousness word vomit.
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The Facebook timeline for Cesar Altieri Randazzo doesn’t show any new content since October 2016. Dozens of videos and photographs show the alleged suspect attending Trump rallies and holding signs with Michael Symonette, head of the “Blacks for Trump” group and a former member of a violent cult.
A Twitter account under the name Cesar Altieri frequently posted memes and pictures linked to the far-right—and to many targets of the bombs.
Sayoc tweeted multiple images involving Hungarian billionaire George Soros. One image features a large menorah, calling Soros “the Godfather of the Left” with a graphic alleging that he controls the mainstream media.
Another tweet falsely claimed that the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida was a false flag operation or “con job” carried out at Soros’ direction.
Other tweets appear to link Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) with murders in Los Angeles, while other tweets accuse Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) of grand corruption.