Brennan on explosive devices sent to him, Dems: I hope this is 'a turning point' for Trump's rhetoric
© Greg Nash

Former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanOvernight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Trump: I believe Obama would have gone to war with North Korea Intel agencies' threat assessment matters more than tiff with Trump MORE said Wednesday that he hoped the explosive devices sent to him and prominent Democratic officials earlier that day would signal to President TrumpDonald John TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border MORE that his rhetoric may influence his supporters to "take matters into their own hands."

"Unfortunately I think Donald Trump has not helped to encourage the type of civil discourse and public engagement, and his rhetoric too frequently, I think, fuels these feelings and sentiments that now are bleeding over into potentially acts of violence," Brennan said during a Q&A Wednesday evening at the University of Texas at Austin.

"I think one can make an argument that it has emboldened individuals to take matters into their own hands," Brennan added, stopping short of blaming Trump for the day's events.

Brennan, who served as CIA director under former President Obama, was one of several intended recipients of suspicious packages mailed out on Wednesday. The package, which contained an explosive device, was addressed to Brennan at CNN's New York City offices. Brennan works as an NBC News contributor, though he has appeared on CNN.


Secret Service agents intercepted similar packages addressed to Obama and Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem strategist says Clinton ‘absolutely’ has a role to play in 2020 Left-leaning journalist: Sanders would be 'formidable candidate' against Trump Clinton hits EPA for approval of pesticide dump: ‘We need bees!’ MORE, and authorities fielded parcels addressed to Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDems press Barr to make Mueller report public Private insurance plays a critical part in home mortgage ecosystem On The Money: Lawmakers closing in on border deal | Dems build case for Trump tax returns | Trump, Xi won't meet before trade deadline | Waters in talks with Mnuchin for testimony MORE (D-Calif.) and former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObama political arm to merge with Holder-run group Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Ocasio-Cortez to be first guest on new Desus and Mero show MORE. Police also responded to calls for an explosive device found Monday night at the home of billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

None of the devices detonated before being intercepted by law enforcement.

Trump condemned the attempted attacks and said a "major federal investigation" is under way.

"I just want to tell you that in these times, we have to unify," Trump said at a White House event. "We have to come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America."

Brennan feigned surprise that Trump had delivered such remarks, and when the event moderator read the president's comments, audience members audibly chuckled.

The former CIA director said he believes it was important for Trump to deliver a statement calling for unity. However, he lamented that Trump did not do so sooner and voiced a desire for the president to be more consistent in his efforts to bring Americans together.

"I’m hoping that this is going to make it clear to him that what he has done heretofore, as far as a lot of this rhetoric, really is counterproductive, it is un-American, it is what a president should not be doing," Brennan said.

"What he said today is what a president should be doing," he continued. "But follow up on those words with actions, and with his future comments. I’m hoping maybe this is a turning point."

Republicans and Democrats alike have widely condemned Wednesday's attempted attacks and pleaded for cooler heads to prevail in political discourse.

However, both sides were quick to point fingers at the other for escalating the political climate to such hostile levels.

Democratic leaders pointed to Trump's attacks on Democrats at campaign rallies and elsewhere, where he has labeled the Democratic Party an "angry mob" and derided news outlets as the "enemy of the people."

Republicans have pointed to comments from Democrats urging their supporters to confront politicians over Trump administration policies and seized on subsequent protests from liberal activists.

Updated on Oct. 25 at 7:35 a.m.