Suspect charged with federal crimes in mail bombings to Dems

A Florida man with a lengthy criminal history was charged Friday with sending explosive devices to high-profile Democrats who have sparred with President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump FBI identifies Pensacola shooter as Saudi Royal Saudi Air Force second lieutenant Trump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax MORE, a major break in a case that has gained national attention and stoked political divisions ahead of the midterm elections. 

The arrest of Cesar Sayoc Jr. came hours after more devices were discovered in three different states, pushing the total found by law enforcement to 13. None of the devices have exploded, but the saga has put officials on alert about the threat of violence connected to the political season. 

Sayoc, who was apprehended in Aventura, Fla., was charged with interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of explosives, threats against former presidents and certain other persons, threatening interstate communication and assaulting federal officers. If convicted, Sayoc would face up to 48 years in prison.

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The 56-year-old had previously been arrested for theft, fraud, drug possession and making bomb threats in alleged incidents dating back to the 1990s. Social media accounts believed to belong to Sayoc show he attended Trump rallies and made threats against top Democrats, some of whom were sent explosive devices.  

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsThe shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley Rosenstein, Sessions discussed firing Comey in late 2016 or early 2017: FBI notes Justice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe MORE announced the charges at a news conference in Washington, in which he sent a message that political violence will not be tolerated. 

"Let this be a lesson to anyone, regardless of their political beliefs, that we will bring the full force of law against anyone who attempts to use threats, intimidation and outright violence to further an agenda," Sessions said. "We will find you. We will prosecute you."

The arrest capped off a multi-day manhunt that began after a suspicious package was found Monday at the New York home of George Soros, the billionaire investor who has funded liberal causes. FBI Director Christopher Wray said a fingerprint left on another package addressed to Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week What are not criteria for impeachment? Fed's top regulator takes heat from both parties MORE (D-Calif.) and DNA evidence on two additional devices led authorities to Sayoc. 

Explosive devices were also addressed to former President Obama, former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPence: It's not a "foregone conclusion" that lawmakers impeach Trump Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Trump: Giuliani to deliver report on Ukraine trip to Congress, Barr MORE, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats battle for Hollywood's cash The House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE and several other elected Democrats, former administration officials, celebrities and news organizations. 

Further signs of a possible motive emerged Friday morning when law enforcement officials seized a white van allegedly belonging to Sayoc. The van's windows were covered in political stickers, one with an image of Clinton with a target over her head and another with the slogan "CNN Sucks.”

Asked why the suspect targeted Democrats, Sessions said, "he appears to be a partisan" but declined to comment further.

"It's too early at this stage for us to be discussing motivation in this particular case," said Wray. 

Trump spoke at the White House shortly after Sayoc's arrest, declaring "we must never allow political violence to take root in America" and said the nation "must unify ... together in peace and love and harmony."

The president, addressing the packages publicly for the second time, again did not mention by name any of the Democrats who received devices. Trump has repeatedly pushed back against critics who accused him of fomenting partisan anger with his constant, heated attacks against his opponents.

“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing, yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’” Trump wrote a tweet sent at 3:14 a.m. Friday.

In a subsequent tweet, Trump lamented that "this 'Bomb' stuff" was slowing Republican "momentum" heading into the Nov. 6 midterms. 

By putting "bomb" in quotation marks, Trump appeared to nod at conspiracy theories voiced by his supporters claiming the packages did not pose a real danger and were part of a liberal plot designed to tar Republicans ahead of the midterms. 

That notion was dispelled by Trump's hand-picked law enforcement leaders, who outlined the threat posed by Sayoc at Friday's news conference. 

Wray said the 13 packages contained "IEDs,” or improvised explosive devices, that consisted of PVC piping, a small clock, wiring, a battery and "potential explosives." 

The FBI chief said the devices are still being analyzed to determine their functionality, but stressed "these are not hoax devices."

Officials said it remains unclear if other packages could turn up. Earlier Friday, law enforcement officials said they found packages containing the makeshift explosives that were addressed to Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Sunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.), former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperTrump predicts 'historic' conclusions from DOJ's watchdog report on 'spying' The curious timeline for taking down Trump Fairness, tradition, and the Constitution demand the 'whistleblower' step forward MORE and Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer. 

The package addressed to Clapper was sent to CNN's New York offices, similar to how an earlier device was sent to former CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanKrystal Ball: Yang's MSNBC boycott shows network has 'officially lost the left' Trump predicts 'historic' conclusions from DOJ's watchdog report on 'spying' Trump bemoans 'double standard' in Stone conviction MORE, an MSNBC contributor, at CNN's address.  

Both men have been critical of Trump. The president moved to revoke Brennan's security clearance earlier this year and has accused Clapper of lying to Congress. 

The quick arrest of Sayoc was a win for the FBI, which has been embattled by criticism from the left and the right for its handling of the Clinton email investigation during the 2016 election as well as the probe into Russia's election interference. 

Wray said he received a congratulatory call from Trump, who has criticized the FBI and last year fired James ComeyJames Brien Comey'Project Guardian' is the effective gun law change we need Saagar Enjeti: Hillary Clinton still blames her failures on Bernie Sanders The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley MORE as its director. Trump on Friday praised the agency and other law enforcement organizations for apprehending the suspect. 

"It's a needle in a haystack. How do you do this so quickly? They've done an incredible, incredible job and I want to congratulate them," he said at the White House.

—Last updated at 4:47 p.m.