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Law Enforcement Investigating Suspicious Packages Sent To Prominent Democrats And CNN


All right, we're learning more this hour from the FBI about a number of suspicious packages that were addressed to Democratic political figures this week. Authorities say five devices were sent in identical bubble-lined manila envelopes, each of them with the return address of former Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. But those envelopes weren't all of the suspicious packages reported today. For more on this, we're joined by NPR Justice correspondent Ryan Lucas. Hey, Ryan.


CHANG: OK, so take me through this. The FBI says there were five potential explosive devices, but there are also reports of more.

LUCAS: That's right. So the FBI says that these envelopes were addressed to George Soros - he's the billionaire, big contributor to Democratic causes - Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Obama's former attorney general Eric Holder and his former CIA director, John Brennan. Now, the package that was intended for Brennan was sent to CNN's New York office.

CHANG: Right.

LUCAS: Not clear why that was. But yes, there were other people who said they received suspicious packages today. One of them was the New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who is a Democrat. His office later said, however, that the package didn't contain any sort of suspicious explosives. Another was California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. U.S. Capitol Police say that they intercepted a suspicious package that was addressed to her. They say it was removed and is being investigated by the FBI.

Right now, we don't know whether the FBI didn't mention her because her package doesn't belong with the others, or perhaps it just was received too late. It's not clear at this point. But the FBI did say in its statement on Wednesday that it's possible that there are more suspicious packages out there that it doesn't know about at this point.

CHANG: So what do we know about the five packages that the FBI discussed in its announcement earlier?

LUCAS: Well, a law enforcement official described them as pipe bombs earlier today. In the case of the one sent to CNN, the package also is said to have contained a white powder. Now, the FBI itself says that all of the explosive devices were mailed in these identical bubble-wrapped envelopes.

The addresses on the packages were computer-printed. The return address on all of them was, as you mentioned, for Wasserman Schultz, although her last name was misspelled. Each package had six U.S. Postal Service stamps, although in the one photo of a package that was provided by the FBI, it doesn't appear as though they were postmarked, which could mean that in that case the individual or individuals put stamps on it but didn't actually mail it.

Now, the package addressed to former Attorney General Eric Holder didn't make it to his office. It was rerouted, the FBI says, to the return address, which of course is Wasserman Schultz. Now, she says today that she didn't send these. She says she's deeply disturbed by these packages, disturbed that it showed up and that her name has been used in all of this.

CHANG: OK, so we have a number of targets. You say there could be more out there. Where does this investigation go next?

LUCAS: Well, the FBI says that these items that have been collected. They're on the way to a FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va. They'll be examined there. There are a lot of federal agencies, as well as local law enforcement, that are involved in this investigation.

On the federal side, you have the Secret Service, of course, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is involved as well because of the mail service aspect of this. Now, FBI director Chris Wray says that this investigation is of the highest priority for the bureau. And he asked, if there's anyone out there who has information on this, contact the bureau.

CHANG: The obvious connection among the people targeted is that so far, at least, they're all high-profile Democrats. Have authorities said anything about that link, the Democratic link?

LUCAS: The FBI and other law enforcement agencies have not commented on that, no. It's very much the early stages of this investigation. But New York's Democratic mayor and governor did. They both called for a cooling of political rhetoric in this kind of a tense time. Senior Republicans in Congress did as well. And then, of course, the White House - the president, Trump, was briefed on this. And he addressed the matter at an event, called these packages despicable, said there's no place for violence in America.

CHANG: That's NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks so much, Ryan.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.