Suspicious packages identified as potential explosives were sent to former president Barack Obama, presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and to a building housing CNN’s New York bureau, officials said Wednesday.
The Secret Service said it recovered a single package addressed to Clinton in Westchester, a suburb north of Manhattan on Tuesday, and a second package addressed to the Obama residence in Washington on Wednesday.
Both Democrats remain two of the most high-profile political figures in the United States, which goes to the polls on November 6 in key midterm elections seen as a referendum on Republican President Donald Trump.
The White House swiftly condemned what it called “despicable” acts targeting the two Democrat luminaries.
“The packages were immediately identified during routine mail screening procedures as potential explosive devices and were appropriately handled as such,” the Secret Service said in a statement.
“The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
Moments later U.S. news network CNN said it had evacuated its New York bureau over another suspicious package. Police said the package contained a device they described as a metal pipe with wires and was found in the mailroom of the Time Warner Center.
Explosive device in transit now in NYPD containment unit. pic.twitter.com/Pt49kRm9UP
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 24, 2018
New York police confirmed to AFP that its officers had been called to the Time Warner Center, where the CNN bureau in the U.S. financial capital is located, to investigate reports of a suspicious package.
The Secret Service, which provides protection to current and former presidents and their families – Clinton is the wife of former president Bill Clinton – said it had initiated a “full scope criminal investigation.”
The investigation would “leverage all available federal, state, and local resources” to determine the source of the packages and identify those responsible, it said.
It was not immediately clear whether Clinton or Obama, who has kept a family base in Washington after leaving office so that his youngest daughter can finish high school, were at home when the packages were found.
The FBI’s field office in New York said it was “aware” of a suspicious package found in the vicinity” of Clinton’s home in Chappaqua and that its Joint Terrorism Task Force was investigating.
Target for Right-Wingers
CNN has distinguished itself in the last two years for its aggressive coverage of the Trump administration. The network has drawn relentless and often hostile criticism from the president, who frequently refers to it as “fake news.”
The incidents come just days after an explosive device found in the mailbox at the New York home of U.S. billionaire and liberal donor George Soros, a target of right-wing groups.
An employee of the residence in Bedford, an ultra-wealthy enclave just a 20-minute drive from Westchester, found the package in the mailbox on Monday. It was later defused by bomb squad technicians.
Born in Hungary, the 88-year-old hedge fund tycoon is one of the world’s richest men with an estimated net worth of $8.3 billion and a prominent philanthropist who has become a hate figure for right-wing groups.
Soros supported Clinton, Trump’s rival in the 2016 presidential election, and has been accused by nationalists the world over of sponsoring protests and seeking to push a liberal, multicultural agenda.
His Open Society Foundations on Tuesday condemned the “hateful rhetoric that dominates politics in the United States and so many countries around the world,” noting it “breeds extremism and violence.”
“In this climate of fear, falsehoods, and rising authoritarianism, just voicing your views can draw death threats,” it said.
Earlier this month Trump accused Soros without evidence of paying demonstrators to protest against the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of attempted rape in high school.
Soros has also been falsely accused of funding the caravan of migrants moving north from Honduras through Mexico en route to the U.S. border.