The discovery of five pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats, CNN and a liberal billionaire put the country on edge Wednesday and sent law enforcement officials scrambling to prevent any more packages from reaching their targets.
The hunt for a serial mail bomber began late Tuesday night when Secret Service personnel conducting standard mail screenings found a pipe bomb inside a plain manila envelope with a bubble-wrapped interior addressed to former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. A similarly packaged bomb was found hours later in mail addressed to former president Barack Obama.
Neither bomb got close to its intended target, and neither contained a written message, according to law enforcement officials, but the twin discoveries led to other undetonated devices being found elsewhere, including in the mailroom at CNN’s New York headquarters and a district office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.).
James P. O’Neill, commissioner of the New York Police Department, said police found what “appeared to be a live explosive device” at CNN addressed to former Obama administration CIA director John Brennan, though officials did not immediately say how effective that or the other devices might have been at causing damage.
As more devices were discovered, a disturbing pattern emerged — the bomber or bombers appeared to be targeting prominent figures on the political left.
The first such package was discovered Monday at the New York home of George Soros, a billionaire activist known to fund pro-democracy and liberal political groups.
Officials described the devices as attempted acts of terrorism and cautioned that the number of bombs — and intended victims — could grow. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray issued an appeal for the public’s help to catch the bomber and warned people not to touch suspicious packages.
“This investigation is of the highest priority for the FBI,” Wray said in a statement. “We ask anyone who may have information to contact the FBI. Do not hesitate to call; no piece of information is too small to help us in this investigation.”
Officials said the packages used as a return address the office of Wasserman Schultz, who chaired the Democratic National Committee during part of the 2016 campaign. One such package used an incorrect address for former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., and it was “returned” to her office in Sunrise, Fla., where it was intercepted, according to officials. Authorities do not believe she had anything to do with the packages and think she was a potential victim. A spokesman for Holder declined to comment.
The pipe bomb addressed to Brennan was found in the mail at CNN’s headquarters in New York. Since leaving the government, Brennan has been an outspoken critic of President Trump; he is an on-air analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, rather than CNN.