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 TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist 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 SessionsTrump's no racist; he's an equal opportunity offender Press: Acosta, latest to walk the plank The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question 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 WatersSenators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency at hearing Democrat Sherrod Brown torches Facebook at hearing: They 'broke journalism,' 'helped incite a genocide' House Democrats mull bill to ban Facebook cryptocurrency project 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 BidenHouse unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Sanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Democrats fret over Trump cash machine 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 BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Schumer throws support behind bill to study reparations MORE (D-N.J.), Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Democrats fret over Trump cash machine MORE (D-Calif.), former Director of National Intelligence James ClapperJames Robert ClapperA brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats New study suggests Trump's 2016 poll numbers rose after increased Russian troll farm tweets Trump raises 2020 stakes by elevating North Korea, China on agenda 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 BrennanWebb: Questions for Robert Mueller A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats Trump critic Brennan praises his Iran decision: I 'applaud' him 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 ComeyFBI's spreadsheet puts a stake through the heart of Steele's dossier Hannity invites Ocasio-Cortez to join prime-time show for full hour The Hill's 12:30 Report: Acosta under fire over Epstein plea deal 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.