Suspicious packages sent to former U.S. President Barack Obama and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as well as the CNN bureau in New York triggered immediate investigations on Wednesday, less than two weeks before U.S. congressional elections.
The package to Clinton was found late Tuesday while the one addressed to Obama was recovered early Wednesday, both during routine off-site mail screenings, the Secret Service said. Obama and Clinton were not at risk, they said.
With the country deeply polarized under President Donald Trump, the packages brought a new level of concern to political contests that will decide whether Democrats can challenge the majorities now held by Trump’s Republicans in the U.S. Congress.
A bomb was delivered earlier this week to the suburban New York home of George Soros, a major Democratic Party donor.
The Time Warner Center housing a CNN newsroom in New York was evacuated “out of an abundance of caution” after a suspicious package was received in the mail room, CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a note to employees. He said CNN was checking its bureaus worldwide.
CNN is a frequent target of Trump, who routinely calls the news media the “enemy of the people” and belittles critical coverage as “fake news.”
The White House, in a statement, condemned the attempted attacks on Obama and Clinton.
“These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. “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.”
Trump was briefed on the suspicious packages “and we’re taking it very seriously,” said a senior White House official.
The FBI said it was investigating.
“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 package addressed to Clinton at her home in the New York suburb of Chappaqua was an explosive device, the New York Times reported.
Former President Bill Clinton was home when the device was intercepted at a Secret Service facility not near the Clintons’ home, MSNBC reported. It said Hillary Clinton was in Florida attending fundraising events.
A federal law enforcement official told Reuters that more than one of the packages appears to have the same construction or design.
The New York Police Department’s bomb squad said the package at the Time Warner Center, which also houses stores and restaurants, appeared to be an explosive device, CNN reported.
The discovery of the packages came after a small bomb was found earlier this week at the home of billionaire liberal donor Soros in the New York City suburb of Katonah, about 10 miles (16 km) from the Clintons’ home.
“Nothing made it to their home,” Bill Clinton’s spokesman said in an email. A spokesman for Hillary Clinton referred queries to the Secret Service statement.