U.S. Secret Service says agents intercepted two suspicious packages — ones thought to be potential explosive devices — that were sent to Hillary Clinton at her Chappaqua home and to former President Obama in Washington, D.C.
Secret Service says it recovered the Clinton package late Tuesday; the parcel addressed to Obama was intercepted early Wednesday. Neither was delivered and neither the former first lady or president were ever at risk, officials said.
A short time later, there were reports CNN at the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle were evacuated over yet another possible suspicious package. A security guard who answered the phone at the 58th Street location told News 4 no one was at their desks. NYPD said to avoid Columbus Circle.
The nature of the contents of the packages wasn’t immediately clear, but two senior law enforcement officials had told News 4 the concern in the Clinton case was that it was similar to the bomb found in the mailbox of billionaire philanthropist George Soros’ home in the same county days earlier.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” Secret Service said in a statement. “Both packages were intercepted prior to being delivered to their intended location. The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
Secret Service says it has initiated a “full scope criminal investigation that will leverage all available federal, state, and local resources to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible.”
No one was hurt in the Soros case, which happened at his home in Bedford, about 10 miles apart from Chappaqua. It’s not clear if the New York cases, both in Westchester County, are thought to be related.
A Clinton spokesman referred questions to the Secret Service, but reiterated that, unlike the Soros case, no package actually got to the Clinton home.
In Soros’ case, an employee noticed the package, put it in a wooded area and called police, who alerted the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives. A law enforcement source told NBC 4 New York that the device contained explosive powder; it was detonated as a precaution.
Investigators are reviewing surveillance video to determine whether the package was sent via mail or otherwise delivered.
The FBI is working with police to figure out who sent the Soros device, which a senior law enforcement official said was similar to a pipe bomb. A law enforcement source says evidence was sent to the FBI lab in Quantico for testing. The FBI’s New York office said Wednesday that its Joint Terrorism Task Force was working with federal, state and local partners on the investigation.
President Trump was briefed on the situation. The White House later issued a statement that said, “We condemn the attempted violent attacks recently made against President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, and other public figures. 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.”
Should the package at the Clintons’ turn out to be a similar device to the one in Soros’ mailbox, it would be the second such attack on liberal heavyweights in the county.
Soros, a billionaire who made his fortune in hedge funds, has donated heavily to liberal causes and is vilified on the right. He is also the subject of many unfounded conspiracy theories. Recently, conservative critics have, without evidence, accused him of secretly financing a caravan of Central American migrants to make their way north toward Mexico and the U.S.Others have falsely accused him of being a Nazi collaborator during World War II, when he was a child in Hungary.
Activists frequently post the addresses of homes he owns in Westchester County on social media sometimes accompanied by menacing messages.
Soros’ foundation, The Open Society Foundation, released a statement Tuesday condemning “the politics of hate that dominates our discourse today.”
“In this climate of fear, falsehoods, and rising authoritarianism, just voicing your views can draw death threats,” the statement continued. “George Soros deplores violence of any kind, and urges politicians across the political spectrum to tone down their rhetoric. Words have consequences, and we bear a collective responsibility to create a more civil way to discuss our political differences. Respect for a diversity of opinions is fundamental to open society and that is the work that George Soros has devoted his life to. Our politics should be more about what we’re for than who we hate.”
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Source: NBC San Diego