This week’s episode of The Cohen Report is about the bomb threats sent to outspoken Trump critics, with a little reading of my Vote Yes on 3 piece at the end! Script below.
(CNN) Six explosive devices were sent to leaders of the Democratic Party, including two former Presidents, and to CNN and George Soros, who are both the targets of criticism from President Donald Trump and others on the right.
(NYT) Two additional pipe bombs, one addressed to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and the other to actor Robert De Niro have been found, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.
Here’s everyone who received the devices:
- CNN Headquarters
- George Soros
- Former CIA Director John Brennan
- Former Attorney General Eric Holder
- US Representative Maxine Waters
- Robert De Niro
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Barack and Michelle Obama
- Bill and Hillary Clinton
- Former DNC Leader Debbie W. Schultz
What do we know?
Information thanks to NYT
- There have been nine intercepted devices
- There have been no injuries and none of the devices detonated
- The devices sent to CNN and Mr. Soros look like pipe bombs
- The device sent to CNN was about six inches long, wrapped in black tape and delivered in a manila envelope
- Politicians have responded
- President Trump called the devices “despicable acts” and said that the “the full weight of our government is being deployed to conduct this investigation.” At a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the explosives an “act of terror.” “I want to make it very clear that the people of New York City will not be intimidated,” he said. “We cannot let the acts of a very few change who we are.”
What do we not know?
Information thanks to NYT
- Who is responsible
- No suspect has been identified by law enforcement
- Why they were sent
- While those who were targeted have been the focus of conservative political attacks, law enforcement officials have not confirmed that this is linked
- Whether the bombs are real or hoaxes
- How the packages were delivered
- A courier delivered the package to CNN, and the police believe the package sent to Mr. Soros’s home was hand delivered. But it is unclear how the other packages arrived at their destinations.
- What else was in the envelope sent to CNN
- At a news conference, the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, said that the package sent to CNN also contained a white powder. The police are testing it to determine whether it was toxic.
What are the reactions?
Information thanks to Washington Post
- Right wing media personality John Cardillo tweeted out his opinions
- “Investigators need to take a serious look at far left groups like #Antifa when investigating the bombs sent to Soros, Obama, and the Clintons,” he wrote in a now-deleted tweet. “These smell like the false flag tactics of unhinged leftists who know they’re losing.”
- Trump fan account Bill Mitchell also offered his opinion
- “These ‘explosive packages’ being sent to the #Media and high profile Democrats has Soros astro-turfing [sic] written all over it so the media can paint the #GOP as ‘the dangerous mob.’ Pure BS.”
- That has more than 2,000 retweets
- #MAGABomber was the top trend on Twitter, propelled by a combination of those assuming the bombs were motivated by Trump’s rhetoric against Democrats and the media — and those who were using the hashtag to criticize it.
- Breaking news speculation has increasingly helped to push the once-fringe idea of politically motivated “false flag” attacks into the mainstream.
- False flag attacks are covert operations designed to deceive
- Within minutes of the news of the suspicious packages, the “false flag” narrative began circulating in pro-Trump spaces like the r/The_Donald subreddit. Rising posts linked to articles about Bill Ayers, one of the founders of the radical Weather Underground organization, which claimed responsibility for a series of bomb attacks in the 1970s. Another rising post said, “FALSE FLAG. When you hear the MSM screaming about attempted violence by Trump supporters two weeks before Midterms just remember what leftists are capable of.”
- Former FBI profiler James Fitzgerald said the bomber could also be “some Democrat, low-level person … who just decided, you know what, I’m going to put this out, because two weeks before a major election, who’s going to look like the bad guy here? The Republicans.”
- Many Republican leaders set aside the “liberal mob” talk to condemn the attacks, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Vice President Pence.
- Liberal mob is its own separate issue, with Antifa leading violent attacks. But most liberals aren’t Antifa, and a lot of Antifa aren’t liberals.
Information thanks to TIME
- Investigators examining the explosive devices sent to high-profile targets in Washington and New York this week will be working to glean forensic clues to help identify who sent them, gathering fingerprints and DNA evidence while tracking the origin of the packages and the components used to make the bombs.
- Larry Johnson, a former head of criminal investigations for the U.S. Secret Service who also served as a special agent in charge of the presidential protective detail, said that bomb makers usually leave evidence behind. “If there is a human involved, there is a high probability you’re going to get somewhere investigatively,” he said. “There will be no stone left unturned.”
- Johnson said it is highly likely that the person or people who built the bombs have been previously flagged by law enforcement. The Secret Service maintains an extensive database of individuals and groups who have made past threats against presidents or other top political leaders, either through letters, emails or on social media.
- Among the first steps for investigators will be retracing the path of the packages through the postal system or courier service used to deliver them.
- The U.S. Postal Service operates a sophisticated imaging system that photographs the outside of each piece of mail processed across the country and can be used to determine the specific location of where it was sent. That’s how federal officials were led to a woman who sent the poison ricin through the mail to President Barack Obama and then-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2013.
- “It will be a treasure trove of forensic evidence,” said Anthony Roman, a private security and investigations consultant. “As human beings, we are filtering off our DNA everywhere we walk, everywhere we sit.”
- Even the most careful bomber is likely to leave behind genetic material that could be used to identify them, especially traces of sweat, saliva or skin cells. There may also be fingerprints or hair.
- Roman said investigators will also be collecting all available video camera footage taken from where the packages were mailed and delivered, as well as interviewing any potential witnesses in the area.
- Because the devices were intercepted before they exploded, forensics experts will be able to carefully disassemble the devices and examine the components. They’ll examine the wiring, the initiating system, any timing device. If it was a pipe bomb, authorities will seek to identify what type of pipe. The design of the bomb will be compared to other explosive devices recovered in the past.
- Adam B. Hall, director of the Core Mass Spectrometry Facility at the Barnett Institute of Chemical and Biological Analysis at Northeastern University, said most devices are made from easily available materials regardless of what specific type of device it is.
- Some explosives can be homemade, which will make them more difficult to trace. But other materials must be purchased and can help narrow down where and how a device was made. Smokeless powder, for example, is virtually guaranteed to have been purchased. Black powder can be commercial grade or homemade, but it’s easy to discern which is which.
- There are times, such as with the recent spate of bombings in Austin, Texas, as well as with the notorious Unabomber, when each device will have a different “signature” in an attempt to throw off authorities or as the person making the devices tests and finesses their technique.
The Big Question In The Bomb Case (CNN)
By Peter Bergen
Six explosive devices were sent to leaders of the Democratic Party, including two former Presidents, and to CNN and George Soros, who are both the targets of criticism from President Donald Trump and others on the right. The motive is unknown.
But the even bigger question, of course, is: Who is the person or persons behind these attacks?
Determining that may take some time if the bombmaker or -makers is skilled in covering their tracks.
Recall that the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski dispatched a series of bombs in the mail over the course of 17 years to academics and businessmen who he felt were opposed to his obscure neo-Luddite beliefs.
Kaczynski killed three people and injured 23 others before the FBI finally arrested him in 1996. That arrest was instigated by a tip from Kaczynski’s brother.
Recall also the anthrax-laced letters that were sent to media organizations and congressional offices in the weeks after 9/11. Five people died from anthrax inhalation. It took the FBI seven years to finger leading American microbiologist Bruce Ivins for the attacks. Ivins committed suicide as authorities closed in.
Kaczynski and Ivins were both operating alone and were not part of a group.
These “lone actor” cases are often harder for law enforcement to solve than when there is a larger conspiracy involving multiple terrorists.
That said, today there are more tools available to law enforcement than in the earlier cases, which can help them find terrorists — not least, almost ubiquitous surveillance cameras and more precise DNA technology.
Because of the 9/11 attacks, Americans often frame “terrorism” around jihadist terrorist operations. But the fact is there are other forms of political violence in the United States, which is why it was refreshing to hear top New York officials on Wednesday describe the six explosive devices that were sent to the leading Democrats, George Soros and CNN as terrorist acts.
Recent terrorism has emanated from the left and right. In June 2017, 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson III attacked Republican members of Congress who were practicing baseball in Alexandria, Virginia, injuring five, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was gravely wounded.
Hodgkinson had posted on Facebook: “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” Hodgkinson was shot by police officers and died after his attack.
Seven months earlier, on December 5, 2016, believing a debunked right-wing conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of the basement of the Comet Ping Pong pizza joint in northwest Washington, DC, 28-year-old Edgar Welch of Salisbury, North Carolina, went to Washington to “self-investigate.”
Welch walked into the popular pizza restaurant carrying an assault rifle and started firing shots. He pointed the firearm in the direction of a restaurant employee, who fled and notified police who arrested Welch. Welch told investigators that he had come armed to help rescue the children.
Since 9/11, while 104 Americans in the United States have been killed by jihadist terrorists, 73 have been killed by far-right terrorists and eight have been killed by terrorists motivated by black nationalist ideology, according to New America, a research institution.
The bombs that were sent to the Democratic Party leaders, George Soros and CNN remind us that political violence in the United States can come from a wide range of ideologies and motivations.
VOTE YES ON THREE
Right now, I should be worried about my college applications.
Right now, I should be focusing on balancing my work schedule and AP homework and spending time with my friends.
Right now, I shouldn’t be worried about my rights.
But on November 6th, the Public Accommodations bill will be up on the ballot in Massachusetts because of a referendum.
And on November 6th, I can’t vote. I’ll still be seventeen years old.
How do I begin the argument for a ‘yes’ vote on three? Should I start with the study that proves that there is no link between transgender public accommodations and bathroom crimes? Or the countless organizations supporting this, including the Massachusetts Police Department? How about the basic fact that the anti-discrimination laws that were in place before the Public Accommodations bill just didn’t work, as up to 73% of transgender people reported being harassed.
It seems like an easy yes. However, spread of misinformation is hurting the Public Accommodations Bill. People like Andrew Beckwith at the Massachusetts Family Institute are professionals at what they do – fear mongering.
Mr. Beckwith recently went on television to debate Mimi Lemay, a mother of a young transgender son. And while Mimi did a wonderful job at providing facts, and the moderator seemed to be on her side, Mr. Beckwith came out with blatantly false statements and still managed to dominate the conversation.
There are currently zero federal laws that explicitly prohibit gender identity based discrimination. However, it has been successfully argued in some court cases that laws against sex based discrimination apply in cases concerning gender identity.
In Massachusetts, there are anti-discrimination laws that also prohibit gender identity based discrimination concerning housing, employment, credit, and post-secondary education. These are protected by a bill signed into law by former Governor Deval Patrick in 2011. In October of 2016, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law Senate Bill 2407 (SB 2407), which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public businesses or other public places. The election will affect the 2016 bill, and not the 2011 bill.
Ballotopedia.org has great resources about Question 3. Here’s some highlights:
- “SB 2407 added gender identity to a list of prohibited reasons for discrimination that included race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and ancestry.”
- “The penalty for each violation of the law’s prohibition against discrimination in public places, including discrimination based on gender identity under SB 2407, was set to be (a) up to $100, (b) up to 30 days in prison, or (c) both.”
- “Gender identity is defined by state law as the gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior ‘sincerely held as part of a person’s core identity’ regardless of ‘whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.’”
- Petitioners collected enough signatures to put the referendum on the ballot, but not enough to suspend SB 2407 until the election
I highly suggest you go onto the website and read more about the Question and look at the wonderful interactive graphic they provide.
Please do your best to go out and vote. Companies like Uber and Lyft are providing free or discounted rides to the polls on November 6th. The midterm elections are often downplayed because they don’t have a presidential election, but they are so, so, so important.
There’s so much up at stake this election. And the fact that there are countless of other kids like me, who are stuck in the same position. I feel helpless.
Stand on the right side of history, and make sure to protect transgender rights in Massachusetts this election by voting YES on Question 3.