Suspicious Packages Sent to CNN New York Office, Top Democrats

Police officers work the scene after an explosive device was found at the CNN offices in New York, New York, USA, 24 October 2018. According to news reports, New York police were called to a suspicious package sent to the Time Warner building in which CNN is located.USA CNN TIME WARNER BOMB PACKAGE, New York - 24 Oct 2018

UPDATED: CNN President Jeff Zucker chided President Donald Trump and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for their attacks on the media, after the cable news network was the target of an anonymous package containing an explosive device on Wednesday morning.

“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Zucker said. “The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that.”

The suspicious package found inside CNN’s mailroom in New York forced the evacuation of its headquarters on Wednesday, coming just hours after the Secret Service reported finding packages containing pipe bombs sent to former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Reporters for CNN said there were no injuries and the move was precautionary.

All of the intended recipients have been rhetorical targets of Trump and other political and media figures on the right, although authorities did not say whether they have any indication of a motive for the mailings.

The FBI said other packages were discovered that were intended for former Attorney General Eric Holder, that were sent to a building where Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has an office. A suspicious package, which appeared to be an explosive device, was found earlier this week outside the home of major Democratic donor George Soros earlier this week.

The packages were similar in appearance, having been mailed in manila envelopes with bubble wrap interior, and they all listed Wasserman Schultz and her office as a return address. Holder’s package was discovered there after it was rerouted in the mail.

Capitol Police also said that they alerted the FBI to a package discovered at an offsite mail processing facility, which was evacuated as a precaution. Several networks reported that the intended recipient was Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.).

A mail facility in South Los Angeles was also evacuated Wednesday afternoon after a suspicious package was discovered. The Associated Press reported that the package was also addressed to Waters, and that it appeared to be similar to the packages found in New York and Washington. The LAPD did not immediately confirm that.

The package at the CNN headquarters “appeared to be a live explosive” and contained wires and pipe, James O’Neill, the NYPD commissioner, said at a press conference outside the Time Warner Center. The package contained an envelope containing white powder, he said.

The package was removed from the building by authorities and was being taken to a screening facility. It was mistakenly addressed to John Brennan, the former CIA director, who is a contributor to MSNBC, not CNN.

After its offices were evacuated, CNN stayed on air, with Rene Marsh taking over anchor duties from Washington before handing it off to Wolf Blitzer. The New York anchors who were on the air at the time, Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto, evacuated as well, and then reported from a nearby street corner.

CNN isn’t the only media company with offices in the building. WarnerMedia, the parent company of Warner Bros. and HBO, has employees at Time Warner Center, as does Turner Networks. Zucker wrote in a memo to staff, “I can confirm that we have checked all of our bureaus worldwide, and have found no other devices have been found.”

“We are working with authorities to determine the severity of the situation,” Zucker said. “The NYPD is on scene, and we [are] working closely with them to take every precaution. We are also checking all bureaus around the world, out of a complete abundance of caution.” He said they were putting up magnetometers at the entrance to the CNN building in Atlanta, and that CBS News reached out and offered assistance.

At the press conference, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said authorities were stepping up police presence at media locations in New York. But he also decried what he described as an “act of terror attempting to undermine our free press.”

“We cannot let the acts of a few change who we are,” De Blasio said.

The news of the packages triggered a number of false reports of suspicious devices.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said at the press conference that a device was also sent to his Manhattan office, but an NYPD spokesperson later confirmed that it was not a bomb.

The San Diego Union-Tribune was also briefly evacuated on Wednesday morning after a stack of suspicious packages was spotted in the building, the paper reported. The newspaper shares a building with the offices of Sen. Kamala Harris and other businesses. The San Diego Police Department said on Twitter that 6th Avenue was closed between A and B streets. Police later examined the packages and determined that they were everyday items.

Reports emerged on Wednesday that the Los Angeles Times had been evacuated over “suspicious” envelopes sent to the publication. However, according to the newspaper, the building had not been evacuated. Police were called to the LA Times at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday over a package addressed to “knots berry farm sweets” with the return address of LA Times. It was not addressed to the Times, and police found no threat of a bomb.

The FBI said “it is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations.” They advised the public “to remain vigilant and not touch, move or handle any suspicious or unknown packages.” They also asked that any information about the packages to be sent to its tip line.

At the start of a speech on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton thanked the Secret Service and said, “It’s a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.”

“We are fine thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home. Every day we are grateful for their service and commitment and obviously never more than today.”

Neither Obama nor Clinton received the packages or were at risk of receiving them, the Secret Service said. They were discovered during “routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the agency said in a statement.

“We condemn the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures,” Sanders said in a statement. “These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. The United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards.”

Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter, “We condemn the attempted attacks against fmr Pres Obama, the Clintons, @CNN & others. These cowardly actions are despicable & have no place in this Country. Grateful for swift response of @SecretService, @FBI & local law enforcement. Those responsible will be brought to justice.”

Trump tweeted about Pence’s comment, saying, “I agree wholeheartedly.”

Trump is scheduled to headline a rally on Wednesday in Wisconsin.

Attention very quickly focused on whether political polarization, exacerbated during the midterms, contributed to a deteriorating political discourse.

“This is a political year, a political season. We are weeks from an election,” said Cuomo, who criticized “overheated rhetoric” and “extremism that pushed people the violence.”

“For elected leaders who in many ways set the tone, it is especially important,” he said.

The device sent to CNN appeared to include an image of a fake ISIS flag and the phrase “Get ‘Er Done,” a phrase used by comic Larry the Cable Guy, according to NBC News. That image was similar to a meme that was created by a right wing parody site in 2014.

Brian Steinberg and Rebecca Rubin contributed to this report.