The news that pipe bombs were sent to several prominent Democrats inspired panic across the country on Wednesday, after the Secret Service reported intercepting suspicious packages addressed to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the New York offices of CNN. Additional packages intercepted by authorities were directed to former CIA director John Brennan, former attorney general Eric Holder and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. According to authorities, all of the packages resemble an explosive device sent the home of billionaire and liberal political donor George Soros on Monday.
Law enforcement officials said Wednesday they believed the devices sent to Clinton, Obama, Soros, Brennan and CNN were made by the same person or persons. Authorities suspect the device sent to Cuomo's office was not made by the same person. The officials detailed an aggressive "full court press" to identify and capture the suspects. While it remains unclear why the packages were sent, the choice of targets suggests a potential political motivation. Many of the targets have been the subjects of political attacks by President Donald Trump.
The news of the attempted bombs sparked bipartisan condemnation. Republican lawmakers renewed calls for "civility" but failed to point fingers at members of their own party — particularly Trump — who have regularly incited violence against Democrats and attacked major news organizations. Trump regularly calls news organizations "the enemy of the people" and has shown particular hatred for CNN.
At a rally in Montana last week, the president brazenly applauded congressman Greg Gianforte, who had pleaded guilty to a charge of misdemeanor assault after body-slamming an American reporter for The Guardian. "Any guy who can do a body-slam," Trump told the crowd. "He's my guy." Following his off-script quip, Congressional Republicans either stayed mom, stuck to campaign talking points or refused to respond to Salon's request for comment — and their reactions to Wednesday's attempted bombings feel like a replay of the political drama we saw last week.
The president's comments at the Montana rally are reminiscent of his previous remarks. In August, he warned there will be "violence" if Republicans lose their majority in Congress in the midterm elections in November. Following the white supremacist riot last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump placed "blame on both sides." He also leveraged the threat of violence during the 2016 presidential campaign when he said that his supporters would likely act violently if he did not earn the Republican Party's nomination.
In response to Wednesday's incident, the president retweeted Vice President Mike Pence's condemnation of the bomb scares, adding, "I agree wholeheartedly!" It is Trump's first public response to the incident.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders issued a statement, saying, "We condemn 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."
Her comment about the suspicious packages is a striking contrast to a tweet she shared just the previous night, when she accused "the liberal mob" of "trying to unleash chaos across out country."
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who is in a tight race against Democrat Beto O'Rourke for his Senate seat, tweeted, "Violence is never OK. Reports of bombs sent to the homes of Obama, Clinton, and Soros are deeply, deeply disturbing. America is better than this. Political disagreements are fine, even healthy, but we should always be civil and respect each other's humanity."
Cruz's call for "civil" disagreement stands in sharp contrast from comments he made on Tuesday night, when he jokingly suggested that his Democratic rival should share a "double-occupancy cell with Hillary Clinton."
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has previously riled up Republicans by predicting that politically motivated violence is going to lead to an "assassination," also condemned Wednesday's attempted attacks. "We should all stand united against the use of violent acts like those reported today against political and media figures. I condemn any such acts of violence, they have no place in our politics or society at all," he tweeted.
Talk radio show host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News guest Candace Owens began to spread a conspiracy on Wednesday that Democrats were behind several packages containing explosive devices. Limbaugh suggested on his show on Wednesday that the devices were sent to top Democrats to boost support for Democrats two weeks ahead of the midterm elections.
"It's happening in October," Limbaugh said. "There's a reason for this." He added that attempted violent attacks are not in line with conservatives' usual behavior. "Republicans just don't do this kind of thing," he said
Candace Owens, a prominent conservative commentator and frequent Fox News guest, proclaimed there was a "0% chance that these suspicious packages were sent by conservatives." According to Owens, "the only thing 'suspicious' about these package is their timing." She then blamed "leftists" of using "fake bomb threats" for political gain.