Jennifer Epstein, Henry Goldman and Terrence Dopp
New York City police removed a suspected mail bomb from a Tribeca restaurant owned by actor Robert DeNiro, who has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, as U.S. authorities investigate a spate of such packages sent to media and Trump opponents.
Police received a call shortly after 4 am Thursday reporting a suspicious package and responded to the Tribeca Grill restaurant owned by the actor and director, a New York Police Department source said. The package was removed and is being transported to an NYPD bomb squad facility in the Bronx, the source said.
It was addressed to De Niro personally and contained the same type of explosive device found in the Time Warner Center, where CNN is located, on Wednesday, a person familiar with the incident said.
Law enforcement agencies are investigating apparent explosive devices addressed to frequent targets of conservative vitriol, including Democratic former president Barack Obama, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and cable network CNN, as the FBI warned more such parcels may still be in circulation.
“The packages are similar in appearance” and “contain potentially destructive devices,” the FBI said in a statement, warning that “it is possible that additional packages were mailed to other locations. The FBI advises the public to remain vigilant and not touch, move or handle any suspicious or unknown packages.”
The FBI described the packages as manila envelopes with bubble wrap inside and with a return address from “DEBBIE WASSERMAN SHULTZ,” a misspelling of the Democratic House member from Florida. Each package had computer-printed address labels and six “Forever” stamps, the FBI said.
“It appears that an individual or individuals sent out multiple similar packages,” John Miller, the deputy New York City Police commissioner for counterterrorism, told reporters in Manhattan, where Time Warner Center was evacuated after a suspicious package was found at CNN’s headquarters there. He said the devices appeared to be pipe bombs.
Those targeted were a virtual litany of Trump’s favorite subjects of criticism in tweets and at campaign rallies, from his “lock her up” slogan for Clinton to his denunciation of CNN as “fake news.”
De Niro, the star of Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Analyse This and many other movies, has been an outspoken Trump critic. He denounced the president with obscenities at the Tony Awards in June, prompting Trump, while on his way back from the summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, to call the actor “a very low IQ individual.”
But the president joined political leaders of both parties in denouncing the threatened violence on Wednesday, which comes just ahead of the Nov. 6 congressional elections.
“Acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America,” Trump said at the White House during an event on the opioid crisis. “The full weight of our government is being deployed” in the investigation and “we will get to the bottom of it,” he said.
The attacks began on Monday when police “proactively detonated” a pipe-bomb found at a residence in New York’s suburbs owned by billionaire philanthropist and Democratic donor George Soros, who’s often portrayed by conservatives as a secretive bankroller of liberal causes.
On Wednesday morning, the Secret Service confirmed it had intercepted suspicious packages addressed to former President Obama in Washington and to Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, who lives in Chappaqua, a suburb about 40 miles north of New York City.
“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 an emailed statement “The protectees did not receive the packages nor were they at risk of receiving them.”
Soon after, CNN evacuated its bureau after a suspicious package was discovered by police officers who happened to be in the building instructing employees on how to identify potential explosive devices, according to Miller, the police official. News anchors reported from the street outside and from other bureaus. The office reopened Wednesday afternoon after authorities tested white powder sent along with the suspicious device.
The FBI said the package sent to CNN was addressed to former CIA Director John Brennan in care of the cable network.
The FBI said that a suspicious package was also mailed to former Attorney General Eric Holder but was rerouted to the return address in Florida.
And the bureau said in a tweet on Wednesday night that “two additional packages” were addressed to Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California — who Trump often ridicules as “Crazy Maxine Waters” and “low IQ.” The FBI did not provide more specific details.
Ginger Colbrun, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said in an email that a package addressed to Waters was “located” by U.S. postal inspectors at a postal facility in South Central Los Angeles. Colbrun added that the package “matches the description of those received in N.Y., D.C. and Florida earlier.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said on Twitter that the mail facility was evacuated and that the department’s bomb squad “rendered the package safe.”
The National Counterterrorism Center hasn’t uncovered a connection between the wave of pipe bombs and any foreign terrorist organization but is still investigating the matter, according to an intelligence official who asked not to be identified discussing an ongoing investigation. The center is working with the FBI, which is leading the broader investigation, the official said.
Clinton told an audience in Florida on Wednesday that she is “fine” thanks to the Secret Service’s interception of the package addressed to her but “as an American I’m worried.”
“It is a troubling time, isn’t it?” Clinton said. “And it’s a time of deep divisions and we have to do everything we can to bring our country together.”
Republican lawmakers also tweeted condemnation of the intended attacks. “These attempted attacks that have been made are beyond criminal, they are acts of pure terror,” Representative Steve Scalise, who suffered near-fatal injuries in a shooting during a Republican baseball practice last year. “Violence and terror have no place in our politics or anywhere else in our society.”
CNN president Jeff Zucker said that the White House needs to take its words more seriously.
“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” he said in a statement.
The Secret Service takes special measures to screen the mail of the public figures it protects. Each piece of mail undergoes screening before delivery for potential hazardous substances or devices, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Suspicious packages are routinely quarantined for further examination at facilities that include a chemical and biological laboratory and a forensics laboratory.