By Makini Brice and Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Oct 25 (Reuters) – Another suspected bomb was found in New York City on Thursday morning as a manhunt was under way for a serial bomber targeting high-profile Democrats and CNN, less than two weeks ahead of elections that could alter the U.S. political landscape.
The latest device was addressed to actor Robert De Niro, according to CNN.
None of the eight devices went off and no injuries were reported, but some top Democrats called the threats a symptom of a coarsening brand of political rhetoric promoted by President Donald Trump, who also condemned the acts.
All the targets are frequently maligned by right-wing critics, including former U.S. President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder.
Former CIA Director John Brennan, prominent Democratic Party donor George Soros and California Representative Maxine Waters, an outspoken critic of Trump, were also targets.
On Thursday morning, the New York City bomb squad removed a suspicious package addressed to De Niro and similar to the other bombs, CNN reported. After the Oscar-winning actor’s expletive-laden attack on the president at the Tony Awards in June, Trump called him a “very low IQ individual.”
The bomb packages were sent as the nation prepares for Nov. 6 elections that will decide whether Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress from Republicans and deny Trump the majority his party now holds in both.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
An FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies “will continue to work to identity and arrest whosoever is responsible for sending these packages,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.
Several politicians, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, described it as an act of terrorism.
Investigators were trying to track down another suspicious parcel they believe was addressed to Obama’s vice president, Joe Biden, a federal official told Reuters late on Wednesday.
The CNN bureau in New York received a package addressed to Brennan, who has appeared as an on-air CNN analyst, leading police to evacuate the Time Warner building in a busy Manhattan neighborhood near Central Park.
The package contained an envelope of white powder that experts were analyzing, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.
Trump told a political rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday his government would conduct “an aggressive investigation.”
“Any acts or threats of political violence are an attack on our democracy itself,” Trump said. “We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony.”
He also said the media had a responsibility “to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.”
Last week, Trump, who has joined other Republicans in accusing Democrats of encouraging “mob” tactics, heaped praise on a Montana congressman who assaulted a reporter in 2017.
At an event in Texas on Wednesday, Brennan faulted Trump for frequent inflammatory rhetoric.
The first package, which turned up on Monday, was addressed to Soros, the billionaire financier and advocate of liberal, open-border values who is a frequent target of right-wing conspiracy theories.
The parcel intended for Holder ended up rerouted to the return address printed on all the packages – the Florida office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who formerly chaired the Democratic National Committee, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI said late on Wednesday it had confirmed that two additional packages, similar in appearance to the others, were addressed to Waters.
An FBI statement said the other packages consisted of a manila envelope with a bubble-wrap interior containing “potentially destructive devices”. Each bore a computer-printed address label and six “Forever” postage stamps.
Other officials said the devices contained in the envelopes were all similar to one found in the mailbox of the Soros home and later detonated by police. At least one bomb was packed with shards of glass, one federal source said.
(Reporting by Makini Brice, Jonathan Allen and Brendan O’Brien; Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, Mark Hosenball and Susan Heavey in Washington, Gina Cherelus and Gabriella Borter in New York; Writing by Susan Heavey and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Mark Heinrich)