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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 TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media 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 SessionsRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Sessions, top DOJ officials knew 'zero tolerance' would separate families, watchdog finds Sen. Hawley tramples the 2020 vote in his run to 2024 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 WatersCapitol Police report warned that Congress could be targeted three days before riot Democrats point fingers on whether Capitol rioters had inside help Lawmakers warned police of possible attack ahead of siege 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 BidenMissouri woman seen with Pelosi sign charged in connection with Capitol riots Facebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP MORE, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFor Joe Biden, an experienced foreign policy team Millennials and the great reckoning on race Biden chooses Amanda Gorman as youngest known inaugural poet 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 BookerSunday shows preview: Washington prepares for an inauguration and impeachment; coronavirus surges across the US NCAA tables name, image and likeness vote after DOJ warns of potential antitrust violations Warren and other senators seek investigation into Trump administration resuming federal executions MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to be sworn in by Justice Sotomayor using Thurgood Marshall's Bible In calling out Trump, Nikki Haley warns of a more sinister threat On The Money: Retail sales drop in latest sign of weakening economy | Fast-food workers strike for minimum wage | US officials raise concerns over Mexico's handling of energy permits MORE (D-Calif.), former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community The new marshmallow media in the Biden era 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 BrennanThe biggest example of media malfeasance in 2020 is... Meet Biden's pick to lead the US intelligence community Sunday shows: Health officials anticipate vaccine distribution, warn of worsening pandemic 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 ComeyComey: Biden should consider pardoning Trump Comey: 'Greatest punishment' for Trump after Capitol riot is to 'move past' his presidency Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office 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.