Bombs sent to Democrats, Trump critics: What to know

Another suspicious package addressed to CNN was intercepted in Atlanta Monday, the FBI said, days after the man accused of mailing bombs to the network and prominent Democrats was arrested. 

The package, discovered at a post office, was similar in appearance to the 14 mail bombs sent to Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump across the country last week, the FBI said. None of the devices have gone off.

Cesar Altieri Sayoc, 56, was charged Friday in connection to the packages, three of which were found in Manhattan. He appeared in federal court in Miami Monday afternoon and was ordered held without bail. 

The devices were packaged in manila envelopes with bubble-wrapped interiors and computer-printed address labels and six Forever Stamps, the FBI said. Each included a (misspelled) return address to the Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. Some of the packages also contained photos of the intended target crossed out with a red "X."

The packages were sent just weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm elections, when Democrats hope to take control of one or both houses of Congress.

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Who is Cesar Sayoc?

According to documents reviewed by amNewYork, Sayoc is a current resident of Aventura, Florida, and is a registered Republican.

Sayoc was born in Brooklyn in 1962, records show. He is listed under a number of area residences, including an address in Bergen Beach in July of 1987 and in Hillside and Edison, New Jersey, from 1984 to 2003 and 1995 to 2001, respectively, per records.

Sayoc has been arrested multiple times in Florida, including a 2002 case in Miami-Dade County in which he was charged with a felony offense of threatening to throw a bomb.

Sayoc has worked as a stripper, a professional wrestler, a store manager and a club promoter, according to public records, social media profiles and interviews with people who interacted with him.

He filed for bankruptcy in Miami in 2012, per court records, which listed assets totaling $4,174 including his 2001 Chevy Tahoe.

What is the latest on the investigation?

Sayoc is due back in court in Miami on Friday. The case is expected to be moved to New York, where he will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, officials said.

Authorities were led to Sayoc through fingerprints found on two of the IEDs, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.

IEDs sent to former President Barack Obama and Rep. Maxine Waters were the first to arrive at the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia, on Thursday and agents immediately began to analyze them. Wray said they were able to get fingerprints off the packaging and IED sent to Waters as well as from a piece of the IED intended for Obama.

There may also be a DNA connection between two IEDs and DNA taken from Sayoc during a separate arrest, Wray added.

Authorities also noted in the criminal complaint that Sayoc’s social media posts misspelled Schultz’s name in the same way it was printed on the IED packages. Many of the posts are critical of the Democrats who were meant to receive the bombs.

Following his arrest Friday morning outside an AutoZone store in Plantation, Florida, Sayoc was charged with illegally mailing explosives, threats against former presidents and others, threatening interstate communications, assaulting federal officers and transportation of an explosive, according to the criminal complaint. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 48 years in prison.

His white van, which has many stickers showing President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, was seized by the FBI.

Wray cautioned that Sayoc’s arrest did not necessarily end the threat.

"There may be other packages in transit now and other packages on the way," Wray said.

Who was the latest target?


A suspicious package addressed to the network’s headquarters was intercepted at an Atlanta post office on Monday.

Other targets

George Soros

A bomb was found on Monday, Oct. 22, in a mailbox outside the Westchester County home of the billionaire liberal donor. It was later detonated by police.

Hillary Clinton

A suspicious package sent to the former secretary of state’s home in Chappaqua was found late Tuesday, Oct. 23, during an off-site mail screening, according to the Secret Service. 

Barack Obama 

The Secret Service uncovered a suspected explosive device addressed to Obama’s residence in Washington, D.C., early Wednesday, Oct. 24, during an off-site screening. 

John Brennan, CNN

The suspected explosive device addressed to Brennan, the former director of the CIA, was delivered Wednesday, Oct. 24, to CNN’s mailroom at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. A white powder was also found in the package, but it was later deemed not harmful. 

Brennan is a contributor at MSNBC, but has appeared on CNN as well.

Police respond to the suspicious package sent to CNN's offices in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle on Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Police respond to the suspicious package sent to CNN’s offices in the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Eric Holder

A suspicious package was found Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the building housing the Florida office of Wasserman Schultz. The package was addressed to Holder, the former attorney general under Obama, but was rerouted to Wasserman Schultz, whose address was on the return address.

Maxine Waters

Two packages addressed to the California congresswoman were found on Wednesday, Oct. 24. One was intercepted in Washington, D.C., and the other was intercepted in Los Angeles.

Robert De Niro

A suspicious package was addressed to the actor and delivered Thursday, Oct. 25, to the TriBeCa building housing his restaurant and production offices on Greenwich and Franklin streets. 

Joe Biden 

Two suspicious packages addressed to the former vice president were found Thursday, Oct. 25, at a mail facility in Delaware, the FBI said. 

Cory Booker

A suspicious package addressed to the New Jersey senator was stopped at a mail sorting facility in Florida on Friday, Oct. 26, the FBI said. 

James Clapper, CNN

A suspicious package addressed to the former director of national intelligence and CNN contributor was found Friday morning at a USPS facility on West 52nd Street in midtown. The address listed on the package was 10 Columbus Circle, where CNN has its New York bureau.

A suspicious package addressed to former director of national intelligence James Clapper was removed from a mail facility in midtown on Friday, Oct. 26, police said. 
A suspicious package addressed to former director of national intelligence James Clapper was removed from a mail facility in midtown on Friday, Oct. 26, police said.  Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Kamala Harris

A postal worker flagged the suspicious package addressed to the California senator at a mail facility in Sacramento on Friday, Oct. 26, according to an aide.

Tom Steyer

A package addressed to the billionaire Democratic donor was found Friday, Oct. 26, at a post office outside San Francisco.

How were the devices designed?

Each device was made up of 6 inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, wiring and energetic material that could pose a danger if pressure or heat was applied, per the criminal complaint.

"These are not hoax devices," Wray said.

The instructions for such explosive devices are widely available on the internet and in propaganda distributed by militant groups such as Islamic State and al-Qaeda, according to a law enforcement official and a former federal government bomb expert. 

The packages were poorly designed and suspicious in appearance, said University of Rhode Island chemistry professor Jimmie Oxley, who has built 130 pipe bombs to aid investigators. The envelopes the devices were packaged in are between 6 and 8 inches long.

"The small size restricts what materials might actually function in it," Oxley said.

How has Trump responded?

The president praised law enforcement for making an arrest.

"These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country," he said at an unrelated event. "We will prosecute them, him, her – whoever it may be to the fullest extent of the law."

But he put blame on the media for stirring up anger, tweeting Thursday, Oct. 25, "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."

He also said the news coverage of the suspicious packages has slowed momentum for Republican candidates ahead of congressional elections.

"Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows – news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on," he wrote on Twitter Friday, Oct. 26.

That evening, Trump said he was not responsible for inspiring Sayoc’s actions, adding that he had no intention to tone down his harsh rhetoric or change his campaign tactics.

"I think I’ve been toned down, if you want to know the truth," Trump told reporters as he left the White House to board Marine One on his way to a political rally in Charlotte, North Carolina. "I could really tone it up because as you know the media’s been extremely unfair to me and to the Republican Party."

‘False flag’ conspiracy theory

Trump’s tweet on Oct. 26, treads closely to a conspiracy theory — completely lacking in evidence — that a pro-Democratic contingent was behind the mailings. Basically, those who embrace this "false flag" narrative believe that the mailings are a tactic to promote sympathies toward Democrats, with the aim, apparently, of gaining an edge in the fast-approaching midterm elections. 

The theory has been promoted by right-wing commentators and on social media including pro-Trump subreddits and has begun to get mainstream coverage

With Lauren Cook and Reuters