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Suspect In The U.S. Mail-Bomb Investigation Detained

The first in the series of explosive devices was found Monday in a mailbox outside the New York home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros

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A package containing a "live explosive device," according to police, received at the Time Warner Center which houses the CNN New York bureau, in New York City, is shown in this handout picture provided. VOA
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U.S. authorities on Friday detained a person they believe is connected to at least 12 suspicious packages sent to Democratic politicians and critics of President Donald Trump, a U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman announced.

More details of the arrest are expected to be released at a news conference later today.

Earlier Friday, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said Friday a suspicious package addressed to Democratic Senator Cory Booker was found.

The FBI said the package was similar to the crude pipe bombs that were addressed to former President Barack Obama, other high-profile Democrats and critics of of President Trump. The law enforcement agency said the package was found in Florida.

New York police said a twelfth suspicious package targeting former National Intelligence Director James Clapper was also found Friday at a post office in Manhattan.

Clapper said on CNN early Friday he was not surprised he was targeted and said the incidents were “serious.”

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A member of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad walks to the building where U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office is housed in Sunrise, Florida,. VOA

Federal investigators searched a massive U.S. mail sorting facility in Florida late Thursday, after determining that at least one of the pipe bombs was processed there.

A report in the Miami Herald says the package that ended up in the office of U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz is “likely” the package in question, according to a federal law enforcement official familiar with the case.

Before arriving in Schultz’s office, however, the mail bomb was initially sent to the office of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, but was not delivered and was sent to the return address, which was Schultz’s address. It was processed through the massive Opa-locka mail sorting facility in Florida, The Herald reports.

Investigators are expressing confidence they will identify who is responsible for sending the 10 pipe bombs.

“We will identify and arrest the person or people responsible for these acts,” New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters Thursday.

FBI laboratory

All of the “suspected explosive devices” were being taken to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s laboratory at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, O’Neill said.

“We are discovering things by the hour,” he added at a news conference where other officials also said tips from the public were providing leads for investigators.

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FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House. VOA

FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney, who is in charge of the bureau’s New York field office, said “the investigation is still in its early stages,” thus he would not provide specific answers to the media about possible suspects or whether the pipe bombs were properly wired to explode.

Investigators are specifically looking at the southern part of the state of Florida as a source of some of the packages, according to media reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump is largely blaming the media for the angry political atmosphere in America that critics contend has led to what is being regarded as a wide-scale assassination attempt.

Early Friday, Trump posted on twitter.

“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, “it’s just not Presidential!”

“A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”

Trump’s tweet Thursday came as suspected explosive devices addressed to actor Robert De Niro and former Vice President Joe Biden were found Thursday.

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President Donald Trump talks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, before leaving for Wheeling, W.Va. VOA

Other packages have been addressed to former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as a former U.S. attorney general, two Democratic Party members of Congress and former Central Intelligence Director John Brennan.

What police described as a live explosive device that arrived in an envelope addressed to Brennan at CNN’s New York bureau prompted the evacuation of the Time Warner Center for hours on Wednesday.

Pressed by reporters Thursday on whether there could be a link between Trump insulting political opponents and the dispatch of the bombs,White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders replied, “the president is certainly not responsible for sending suspicious packages to someone no more than (Democratic Party U.S. Senator) Bernie Sanders was responsible for a supporter of his shooting up a baseball field practice last year.”

Throughout the day on Wednesday, leaders from both the major parties called for a return to civility in the political arena.

The Secret Service says the package addressed to Clinton was discovered late Tuesday, intercepted at a mail screening facility near her home in a New York suburb where she lives with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

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Officers watch over the scene outside the Time Warner Center, Oct. 24, 2018, in New York. Law enforcement officials say a suspicious package that prompted an evacuation of CNN’s offices is believed to contain a pipe bomb. VOA

A separate package addressed to Obama, according to the Secret Service, was intercepted at a screening facility at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, a 365-hectare military facility in Washington.

Also Read: President Donald Trump Key Force In Driving The Midterms Elections

California Congresswoman Maxine Waters was sent two suspect packages, one intended for her office in the nation’s capital and the other for her home district office. The first was intercepted at a congressional mail sorting center in the state of Maryland, and the second discovered by postal inspectors at the Los Angeles Central Mail Sorting Facility.

The first in the series of explosive devices was found Monday in a mailbox outside the New York home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a major donor to Democratic candidates. (VOA)

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions Steps Down As Asked By Donald Trump

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions attends a news conference on the arrest of a suspect in the sending of at least a dozen parcel bombs to Democratic politicians and high-profile critics of President Trump. VOA

U.S. President Donald Trump forced his controversial Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign Wednesday, setting up a possible showdown with newly energized congressional Democrats over the investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

Sessions, in a resignation letter to Trump, wrote that he was stepping down at “your request,” accepting a fait accompli he’d long sought to avert despite Trump’s repeated public humiliations of the attorney general over his recusal from oversight of the Russia probe.

The forced departure of Sessions, a former Republican senator and early supporter of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, capped a turbulent tenure that hit a rough patch in early 2017 when he stepped aside from the Russia investigation shortly after taking office.

Trump blamed Sessions’ recusal for the speedy appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and, over the course of the attorney general’s 20-month tenure, repeatedly castigated Sessions for failing to rein in what he called a “witch hunt” being led by Mueller and “17 Angry Democrats.”

While undertaking a wholesale repeal of Obama-era policies and implementing Trump’s tough-on-crime and immigration agenda, Sessions was increasingly shunned by the president, to the point that Trump told an interviewer earlier this year, “I don’t have an attorney general.”

In a pair of tweets Wednesday afternoon announcing Sessions’ resignation, Trump thanked the attorney general for his service and said Matt Whitaker, Sessions’ chief of staff and a former U.S. attorney under former President George W. Bush, would take over as acting attorney general. A permanent replacement would be announced later, Trump said.

Though long expected, Sessions’ departure fueled Democratic fears that Trump may be maneuvering to assert control over the Mueller investigation through a trusted appointee or possibly shut down it all together.

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U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. VOA

Congressional probe urged

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee and a frequent Trump critic, urged Congress to investigate “the real reason” for the attorney general’s “termination.”

At a testy White House news conference earlier Wednesday, Trump said he could end the Mueller investigation “right now,” but “I stay away from it … I let it just go on.”

Other Democratic congressional leaders, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner issued nearly identical tweets urging Whitaker to recuse himself from the Russia investigation, citing his vocal criticism of the probe.

 

“Given his previous comments advocating defunding and imposing limitations on the Mueller investigation, Mr. Whitaker should recuse himself from its oversight for the duration of his time as acting attorney general,” Schumer tweeted.

 

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Then-Iowa Republican senatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker is pictured before a televised debate in Johnston, Iowa. VOA

 

Whitaker served as U.S. attorney for the southern district of Iowa from 2004 to 2009. According to his LinkedIn profile, he headed Foundations for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a self-described ethics watchdog, until September 2017, shortly before joining the Justice Department.

In an opinion piece for CNN.com in July 2017, two months after Mueller’s appointment, Whitaker wrote that he agreed with Trump that investigating the president’s finances fell outside Mueller’s mandate, and he urged Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to limit the special counsel’s authority.

‘In charge of all matters’

Asked whether Whitaker would take control of the Russia probe, Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores said, “The acting attorney general is in charge of all matters under the purview of the Department of Justice.”

Flores did not directly answer questions about whether Whitaker had consulted or planned to consult Justice Department ethics experts on whether he should recuse himself from the Russia probe.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., departs Capitol Hill, Oct. 6, 2018, in Washington. VOA

“We’re following regular order here,” she wrote via email.

John Malcolm, a former federal prosecutor now with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said he saw no reason for Whitaker to step aside.

“He is the acting attorney general. He has no reason to recuse himself,” Malcolm told VOA.

Malcolm said Sessions did “a solid job of implementing the president’s law enforcement priorities,” and he praised the attorney general for “protecting the integrity of the department and trying to keep it above politics.”

It remains to be seen whether Trump will tap Whitaker for the job permanently and send his name to the Senate for confirmation.

Also Read: U.S. Midterm Elections See Muslim American Women Making History

Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and close Trump ally, tweeted that he looked “forward to working with President Trump to find a confirmable, worthy successor. (VOA)