Politics

Suspect packages had this in common: a return address for Debbie Wasserman Schultz

More suspicious packages targeting Democrats, supporters found in NY, DE

New York police responded to reports of a suspicious package in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan on October 25, 2018. It's unclear if the report is related to pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats.
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New York police responded to reports of a suspicious package in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan on October 25, 2018. It's unclear if the report is related to pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats.

Suspicious packages sent to Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Attorney General Eric Holder and billionaire George Soros all had one thing in common: the return address was U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office in Sunrise.

A package sent to an incorrect address for Holder in Washington, D.C., was returned to Wasserman Schultz’s Sunrise office, prompting the evacuation of her office on Wednesday morning. The return address included misspellings of the street name, Wasserman Schultz’s last name and the state of Florida.

A package addressed to Brennan and sent to CNN headquarters in New York had the same spelling errors as the package sent to Holder. Brennan does not work for CNN. He is a contributor to MSNBC. Packages for Obama and Clinton contained similar return addresses, according to law enforcement officials.

The phony return address could have been part of an effort to get the recipients or someone connected to them to open the packages, which law enforcement officials said contained explosive material, including white powder. A device resembling a pipe bomb was attached to the envelope with Wasserman Schultz’s return address on it, though all the packages were intercepted before delivery and none exploded, though the one sent to Soros was deliberately detonated by police, according to The New York Times.

“This morning my office in Sunrise, Florida was evacuated due to a suspicious package. In an abundance of caution, my office in Aventura, Florida was also evacuated,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement. “I have been in direct contact with the FBI and other law enforcement officials who are working tirelessly on this investigation, and I am grateful for their efforts to keep us safe. We are asking anyone with useful information to contact the FBI by calling 1-800-CALL-FBI.”

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Police blocked off streets leading to U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s office in Sunrise on Wednesday after a suspicious package was found. Jimena Tavel jtavel@miamiherald.com

Wasserman Schultz is a frequent lightning rod for attacks and conspiracy theories from the far right and far left due to her tenure as Democratic National Committee chairwoman during the 2016 election.

“We will not be intimidated by this attempted act of violence,” Wasserman Schultz said. “This appalling attack on our democracy must be vigorously prosecuted, and I am deeply disturbed by the way my name was used. Today, my staff and I will hug each other and our loved ones tightly, and tomorrow get back to work serving the people I was elected to represent.”

Wasserman Schultz has been the subject of false attacks in the past, notably that she was linked to the murder of former DNC staffer Seth Rich, an accusation she called “vile and disgusting.”

The recipients of suspicious packages are all frequent targets of hateful rhetoric and conspiracy theories from far-right figures and trolls.

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“Many of you and others across our country have asked about me and my family and I’m very grateful for that,” Clinton said at a fundraiser for congressional candidate Donna Shalala in Miami on Wednesday. “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.”

Sunrise police confirmed that no one was harmed at Wasserman Schultz’s office on Wednesday. The package was given to the FBI for further investigation.

Miami Herald staff writers David Smiley and Jimena Tavel contributed to this report.

Alex Daugherty, 202-383-6049, @alextdaugherty
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