NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday a live explosive device targeting CNN’s offices at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle was “clearly an act of terror.”
The building was evacuated after the device was found in the mail room around 9:30 a.m.
Other suspicious packages with explosive devices were found near the Clinton family home in Chappaqua, Westchester County and near the Obama family home in Washington, D.C.
Rep. Maxine Waters, a Democrat from California, was targeted with a pair of similar devices discovered hours apart – one at a congressional mail facility in Washington and another at a mail facility in downtown Los Angeles. An additional package was intended for former Attorney General Eric Holder, but that one ended up at a Florida office of Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, whose return address was on each of the packages discovered Wednesday.
Wasserman Schultz, who currently serves in the House as U.S. representative for Florida’s 23rd congressional district and is the former chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
According to the FBI, the packages were mailed in manila envelopes with bubble wrap interior. Investigators say they were lightweight because glass was used as shrapnel. The would-be killer kept the weight down so the devices could be put in a mailbox, authorities believe.
Sources tell CBS News the device found at the Time Warner Center was made from PVC pipe and covered with black tape. It contained a small battery, which sources say was similar to a watch battery.
Depending on the charge inside, the PVC would fracture and cause additional shrapnel from the pipe, according to sources.
Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered extra security at airports, bridges, tunnels, and mass transit systems as a precaution. Cuomo also said his office had also received a suspicious device and “is being handled,” but it turned out to be unrelated and contained computer files about the Proud Boys, a group involved in an altercation outside the Metropolitan Republican Club recently.
The device at the Time Warner Center was addressed to “John Brennan c/o CNN,” referring to the former CIA director who had his security clearance removed after criticism of President Donald Trump.
Brennan does not work at CNN, and is a contributor at MSNBC.
The fire alarm could be heard going off while CNN was on the air and its staff evacuated.
CNN continued to broadcast during the evacuation, which took place shortly after 10 a.m.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said that an envelope with white powder was also recovered with the device. That powder is being tested and personnel who may have come in contact with it are being decontaminated, authorities said.
“We have seen this before. We have seen worse, and we will not be intimidated,” O’Neill said. “We will bring these perpetrators to justice.”
“This clearly is an act of terror, attempting to undermine our free press, leaders of this country through acts of violence,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “I want to make it very clear that the people of New York City will not be intimidated. That we’re going to go about our lives undeterred.”
“We wouldn’t be at all surprised if more devices show up,” Cuomo said.
De Blasio said there were no other credible and specific threats against locations in New York City.
“I want to let all New Yorkers know you can go about your daily routine knowing that the NYPD and all these other agencies are here to protect you,” de Blasio said.
“We will not let terrorism win. Not today, not ever,” Cuomo added.
O’Neill urged anyone with any additional information about the incidents to call either 911 or 1-888-NYC-SAFE.
Officials said New Yorkers could expect to see a beefed up police presence at various locations, including media outlets, as a precaution.
“Clearly this is targeting, I dare say, anti-Trump people,” security expert Manny Gomez told CBS2. “Soros, CNN, Obama, the Clintons, and so it’s not surprising that there is a pattern.”
“At a time when there’s a lot of hatred and division, it doesn’t make any sense to exacerbate it,” de Blasio said. “Let’s just say this: To all public officials of all partisan affiliations, don’t encourage violence. Don’t encourage hatred. Don’t encourage attacks on media. You can disagree but you have to show respect for people and air your disagreements peacefully. So unfortunately this atmosphere of hatred is contributing to the choices people are making to turn to violence, there’s no question about it. The way to stop that is to turn back the other way, to bring down the temperature, to end any messages about the use of violence against people that we disagree with. And that has to start at the top.”
“We’ve been through many political seasons and we have political differences and that is actually good for democracy. What is not good is overheated rhetoric, extremism that pushes people to violence,” Cuomo said. “At the end of the day, we may have political differences, but this is one country. We’re all Americans – e pluribus unum, out of many, one – and keeping the debate and the dialogue civil is very, very important. And for elected leaders, who in many ways set the tone, it is especially important.”
Initially, only three floors of the Time Warner building were evacuated, but the evacuation was extended to the entire building.
An NYPD Bomb Squad technician wearing a bomb disposal suit examined the device to determine whether a controlled explosion was necessary. It was removed from the building intact at around 11:40 a.m. and placed in a large containment vessel, which was driven to Rodman’s Neck shooting range in the Bronx. Police shut down traffic along the route as the vehicle made its way to the Bronx. The device will be disassembled there and examined for evidence. It appears to be a viable explosive, crude but operational, according to authorities.
The NYPD roped off the busy Midtown street and kept pedestrians away from the building during the massive police response at the scene.
During the height of the incident, officials with New York City’s Office of Emergency Management said in a tweet that residents on 58th Street between Columbus and Eighth Avenue should shelter in place until further notice. The shelter in place was lifted around an hour later, at around 12:20 p.m.
The NYPD sent police to other media outlets across New York City as a precaution.
The Secret Service said its members intercepted a package addressed to former first lady Hillary Clinton late Tuesday night in Chappaqua, and then another one addressed to former President Barack Obama early Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C.
The Clinton home is protected by a fence, guard shack and security protocols that prevent them from ever handling their own mail. Mail is first screened off-site. What was received at the off-site screening center is described as an improvised explosive device and was intercepted by the Secret Service, Carlin reported.
Former President Bill Clinton was home at the time, but Hillary Rodham Clinton was not.
“We are fine, thanks to the men and women of the Secret Service who intercepted the package addressed to us long before it made its way to our home,” Hillary Clinton said at an event in Florida.
“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,” the agency said in a statement.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said county police were increasing their oversight of mail screening and handling and were activating the county’s multi-agency coordinating system.
“We ask that all County residents remain vigilant. This is a highly charged political season,” Latimer said. “It is OK to disagree, but we must never turn to violence or threats of violence to settle those differences. While we might not share the same political beliefs with our neighbors – we must remember that we are neighbors first and foremost.”
The Bomb Squad was in touch with Secret Service and is comparing construction of all devices, which appear to be similar in construction to the one found near the home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros.
“This begins on Monday night, with a package that was delivered to a residence in Westchester County,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence & Counter-terrorism John Miller. “Overnight, late last night, we received word of the package that was delivered to the Clinton residence, but was intercepted before delivery to the Clinton residence in Chappaqua, New York. That is also going to the FBI lab. After that, we were notified by the Secret Service that they had received a nearly identical package in Washington addressed to the Obamas.”
Miller said after those packages were received, the NYPD proactively went to various locations including CNN to warn them about possible pipe bombs.
“In fact, when the package was discovered here in the CNN mailroom, we had NYPD personnel present that were showing them what these look like and what to be on the lookout for,” Miller said. “Suffice it say, it appears that an individual or individuals sent out multiple similar packages.”
“The safety of the American people is my highest and absolute priority,” Trump said. “A major federal investigation is now underway. The full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation and bring those responsible for these despicable acts to justice.. We will spare no resources or expense in this effort. And I just want to tell you in these times, we have to unify, we have to come together, and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message: That acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America.”
“This egregious conduct is abhorrent to everything we hold dear and sacred as Americans,” Trump added. “We are extremely angry, upset, unhappy about what we witnessed this morning and we will get to the bottom of it.”
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a statement.
During a Wednesday night rally in Wisconsin, Trump said, ”We want all sides to come together in peace and harmony.”
But he says the media “has a responsibly to set a civil tone and to stop the endless hostility and constant negative and oftentimes false attacks and stories.”
Trump called for a new level of civility, saying those “engaged in the political arena” must “stop threatening political opponents as being morally defective.”
Vice President Mike Pence decried the incidents as “cowardly actions” that “have no place in this country.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders condemned “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,” Sanders said in a statement. “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.”
“I strongly condemn the attempted acts of violence against President Obama, the Clinton family, CNN and others. There is no excuse — America is better than this,” Ivanka Trump tweeted.
“As someone whose family has directly been the victim of these mail threats I condemn whoever did this regardless of party or ideology. This crap has to stop and I hope they end up in jail for a long time,” tweeted Donald Trump, Jr.
The CBS Broadcast Center is located near to the Time Warner Center, where CNN’s New York offices were located. David Rhodes, president of CBS News, offered CNN assistance during the incident. CNN President Jeff Zucker thanked Rhodes for “graciously offering assistance” adding “really nice to see from our fellow journalists.”
CNN’s New York newsroom reopened around 3 p.m., over five hours after the Time Warner Center was evacuated.
“The political discourse has turned to violent threats,” Upper West Side resident Rick Lopez said. “I suspected it was a matter of time before it became more than just words.”
Each of the packages are being sent to the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, according to a press release from the FBI. If you have any information that could aid in the investigation, the bureau asks that you call 1-800-CALLFBI (225-5324) or go online.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)