PLANTATION, Fla. – Federal authorities have arrested a man in connection to the suspected explosive packages discovered this week, the Justice Department announced Friday.
FBI Director Christopher Wray identified the suspect as Cesar Sayoc. Multiple law enforcement sources said he is 56 years old, has an Aventura, Florida, address, and was arrested at an AutoZone store in Plantation, about 20 miles away in South Florida.
Sayoc was charged with five federal crimes, including illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and others, and assaulting current and former federal officers, Attorney General Jeff Sessions at an afternoon news conference. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 58 years in prison, Sessions said, stressing that charges could change or expand as the investigation continues.
“This is a law-and-order administration,” Sessions said at the Justice Department. “We will not tolerate such lawlessness, especially not political violence.”
There were a total of 13 bombs mailed around the country and they “are not hoax devices,” Wray said, adding that there could be more packages in transit.
“Today’s arrest does not mean we are all out of the woods,” he said.
Speaking at the White House Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump congratulated law enforcement on the arrest and denounced what he called “terrorizing acts.” He also called for unity: “peace and love and harmony as fellow Americans.”
“We must never allow political violence to take root in America,” Trump said at one point. “I’m committed to doing everything in my power as President to stop it.”
As the situation initially unfolded mid-morning — before the arrest was announced — the President complained on Twitter that the news media was busy reporting on “‘Bomb’ stuff” and not politics.
“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. Republicans, go out and vote!” Trump tweeted.
Sayoc initially cooperative
FBI agents used flash bangs to arrest Sayoc and took him into custody near an AutoZone store in Plantation, a law enforcement official said. He was initially cooperative and told investigators that the pipe bombs wouldn’t have hurt anyone and that he didn’t want to harm anyone, the official added.
A white van — adorned with images of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, as well as a “CNN Sucks” sticker — in Plantation was towed away Friday to Miramar, Florida, where an FBI field office is located. The official said Sayoc had been kicked out by his parents and was living in the van.
He has now retained an attorney so police questioning has ceased, the official added.
DNA found on at least one of the packages, as well as Sayoc’s cell phone, helped investigators identify him, multiple law enforcement officials said. He was not previously known to the Secret Service, law enforcement sources said, but Florida records show a string of arrests dating back to the early 1990s.
Notable among them is a 2002 arrest by Miami police for an offense described in online records as a “threat to bomb” and “threaten to discharge destructive device.” A police report at the time shows that he threatened to blow up a power company and that “it would be worse than September 11th.”
The online records do not provide details about the case. They show that Sayoc pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one year of probation. There is also a notation about the ajudication being withheld.
The records show a total of eight arrests for offenses, including grand theft, battery, fraud and drug possession, as well as multiple probation violations. In 2014, he was arrested after stealing copper pipes at a Home Depot, to which he plead guilty.
The adjudication of each of the arrests could not immediately be determined from the summary of offenses provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Sayoc appears to have pleaded no contest to some offenses. Prosecutors appear to have dropped charges in other matters.
Sayoc also was arrested in North Carolina in 1999 on a stolen vehicle charge, which was later dismissed.
Florida voting records show Sayoc is a registered Republican. He filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
New packages Friday
Earlier Friday, authorities intercepted suspicious packages intended for Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California; and major Democratic donor Tom Steyer, the latest to be sent to prominent Democrats and critics of Trump that were discovered earlier this week.
The FBI said Friday that the package addressed to Booker was discovered in Florida and is “similar in appearance to the others.” Sources told CNN the package was addressed to the senator’s Camden, New Jersey, office. Booker confirmed the package was intended for him but declined to comment further to CNN. The packages intended for Harris and Steyer were discovered in California, law enforcement sources said.
The package intended for Clapper also was addressed to CNN, a law enforcement official said. It was found at a New York City postal facility and was similar to the other packages, the official added.
The Clapper package arrived in a manila envelope with six US flag stamps, just like others discovered this week. The return address is that of Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Florida office, which was the address on packages intended for former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, billionaire and Democratic donor George Soros, actor Robert De Niro, former Attorney General Eric Holder, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and former CIA Director John Brennan. There is no information that suggests Wasserman Schultz sent them.
Clapper, who has frequently criticized Trump, vowed to CNN Friday morning that he wouldn’t be intimidated in light of the discovery.
“I do want to just echo one thing that John Brennan said and that this is not going to silence the administration’s critics,” Clapper said.
How were they sent?
Sent to a home: Five (George Soros, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Biden, Barack Obama)
Sent to an office: Four (John Brennan at CNN, Robert De Niro, Maxine Waters, Maxine Waters)
Not known where it was sent: One (Eric Holder which ended up at Wasserman Schultz’s office)
Delivered: Three (Soros, Brennan at CNN, De Niro)
Intercepted at postal facility: Six (Waters, Waters, Biden, Biden, Clinton, Obama)
Returned to sender: One (Holder at Wasserman Schultz office)
About the postage
Six forever stamps was enough to get the De Niro package delivered, if it was delivered by the postal service. And it was enough to get a number of other packages to a sorting facility. But in the case of one of the Biden packages, it was not enough. There is a note attached to the Biden package with a 375 over a 300 and a 75 underneath. Those numbers are next to words that appear to say “postage due.”
A forever stamp is worth 50 cents. A first class large envelope is $1 for the first ounce and 21 cents for each additional ounce. That means the forever stamps on each envelope are worth $3.00, perhaps the “300” on the Biden package note. The USPS online shipping calculator suggests the package weighed 7 oz, $3.75, if charged as a large envelope or package, or 13 oz, $3.52 if charged as a letter.
Here’s what we know about each package in the order in which the packages were reported.
First package – George Soros, Bedford, NY
First reports: Afternoon of October 23
The Soros package was destroyed by a bomb squad near his home. This is one of two packages to reach its destination. CNN has reported it is believed to have been placed in the mailbox.
There is an image of the Soros package, which shows his name and the rest of the address blurred.
DC Police shared an image of the package with all but the name of “Wasserman Shultz (sic)” blurred. The FBI also shared an image of a package on social media, photographed on grass, with all information blurred. This appears to be the Soros package because the tears on the envelope match exactly.
Second package – Hillary Clinton, Westchester County, NY
First reports: “Late” on October 23
The Secret Service reported the existence of this package to the public on October 24 at the same time as a package later discovered addressed to Obama. Clinton’s home is in Chappaqua, but the Secret Service release simply said it was addressed to her in broader Westchester County, New York. The known image of the package shows that Clinton’s first name is misspelled as “Hilary.”
Third package – Barack Obama, Washington, DC
First reports: “Early” in the morning on October 24
The Secret Service statement about the Clinton and Obama packages was the first word that a serial mail bomber was on the loose. The former President’s first name is misspelled “Barrack.” Neither the Obama or Clinton packages made it to their destination, but the Secret Service said they were “intercepted during routine mail screening procedures.” That suggests they were mailed. The Obama package is the only one that appears to have postal service markings on it.
Fourth package – John Brennan, c/o CNN, New York City
First reports: Mid-morning October 24
This was the most public package discovery because it was, essentially, broadcast live on TV, when an alarm went off during Jim Sciutto and Poppy Harlow’s show on CNN. This is also the package for which there is the best image, both with the bomb out of the envelope and of the cover of the envelope. It is addressed to a misspelled John Brenan, who is the former CIA director and an on-air analyst at MSNBC and NBC.
Whoever sent the package knew enough to target Brennan, a figure who attracted enough ire from Trump that he revoked Brennan’s security clearance, but not how to (or chose not to) spell his name correctly or the network at which he works. Images of the bomb inside the package show it to be decorated with a picture, apparently of Brennan, as well as some other markings, which some have speculated to be a spoof of an ISIS flag.
Fifth package – Eric Holder at Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office, Sunshine, Florida
First reports: Mid-morning October 24
This package was first reported when the building housing Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Florida office was evacuated. Schultz was actually scheduled to appear with Clinton at an event with House candidate Donna Shalala that day. It turned out the Holder package, of which we have not specifically seen an image, was returned to sender at the Wasserman Schultz office. That doesn’t mean someone from the Wasserman Schultz office sent it, but rather that the postal service tried and failed to send the Holder package and returned it to her office. Does that mean it was sent before the other packages? It’s not clear how the bomber listed the original Holder address. This is one of at least two packages with bad addresses.
Sixth package – Maxine Waters on Capitol Hill
First reports: Afternoon of October 24
Although sent to the California congresswoman’s office on Capitol Hill, it was intercepted at the mail sorting facility in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
Seventh package – Maxine Waters, Los Angeles
First reported: Night of October 24
A second package to Waters was intercepted in Los Angeles. There are no known images. She and Biden are the only people who are known to be the target of two packages.
Eighth package – Robert De Niro, New York City
First reports: Morning of October 25
The package was received in the mailroom of the building housing De Niro’s production facility and a retired police officer working at the building discovered it. He didn’t realize it was connected to the mail bomber until later and left it in his office on the seventh floor. There are images of the De Niro packages, and it appears that the address label for De Niro is formatted differently than other packages. His address is indented.
Ninth and Tenth packages – Joe Biden, Wilmington, Delaware
First reports: Morning of October 26
Sent to different addresses, but both with Biden’s name, the packages were intercepted at mail facilities in and near Wilmington. The address, unlike some of the others, includes Biden’s middle name, Robinette.
Eleventh package – Cory Booker, New Jersey, found in Florida
First reports: Morning of October 26
Discovered Thursday at a postal facility in Florida, there is not yet a public image of the package. The FBI confirmed on its Twitter account Friday morning that a similar package to the others had been intercepted in Florida, although it is not clear where, and that it had been addressed to Booker, although it’s not clear where it was supposed to be delivered.
Twelfth package – James Clapper at CNN, found in New York City
First reports: Morning of October 26
Discovered Friday morning at a mail facility in New York, the package was addressed to frequent Trump critic and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who is a CNN contributor. Like the Brennan package, Clapper’s was addressed to the former intelligence official at CNN’s bureau in Time Warner Center. Unlike Brennan’s address, the Clapper address contains no misspellings and like Biden’s, it includes his middle name, Robert.