Beginning on October 22, fifteen packages were mailed to vocal critics of Donald Trump. All 15 packages contained pipe bombs- a sort of improvised explosive- although thankfully none of them detonated. The first package was sent to billionaire investor George Soros, with the list of targets expanding to include political figures as prominent as the Obamas and the Clintons, as well as CNN headquarters.
A suspect was apprehended in on Friday, October 26, in connection with the attempted bombings. The suspect, Cesar Sayoc, is a 56 year-old Florida disk jockey, pizza man, and male stripper. Sayoc lived in a white van covered in stickers that promoted Donald Trump and condemned those who oppose him. Additionally, he has been filmed at Trump rallies sporting a hat that reads “Make America Great”- the slogan Trump used in his 2016 presidential campaign. A closer look at Sayoc’s social media has shown that he frequently posts media consistent with the stickers on his van. He claimed to law enforcement that the bombs would not have hurt anyone, but federal officials have confirmed that the bombs were real and dangerous.
The targets are all outspoken opponents of Trump and members of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton was his closest competition in the 2016 election and had a bomb delivered to her house. Barack Obama was president before Trump and does not endorse Trump’s agenda. A package addressed to Obama was intercepted by secret service members during a mail screening. Trump has repeatedly criticized CNN as a news source, repeatedly labeling it “fake news.” In response to a reporter’s question about his relationship with U.S. allies at the G7 Summit, Trump called CNN “fake news” and “the worst.” Keeping with the trend, Sayoc allegedly sent multiple bombs to their headquarters in cities such as Atlanta and New York.
Although none of the devices detonated and nobody was hurt, Sayoc faces nearly 50 years in prison. He faces charges such as interstate transportation of an explosive, illegal mailing of an explosive, threats against former presidents and other persons, threatening interstate communications, and assaulting federal officers. He made his first court appearance on Monday, October 29, and appeared emotional throughout the hearing. His lawyer, Jamie Benjamin, called the charges flimsy and has claimed that the media forced judgement before the trial even began. Despite the truth behind this statement, media teams were doing their jobs -- and if the judicial system does its job, Sayoc will be incarcerated for what could essentially be a life sentence.
While the attempted bombings were allegedly done in support of Donald Trump, the president has publicly stated that he does not condone the actions of Sayoc. Trump said in an interview with Fox News that he was upset by the fact that his name was in the headline with this bomber. He claims to have no affiliation with the bomber and backed up his complaint with further evidence. He said that “they didn’t do that with President Obama with the church” in reference to the 2015 massacre of nine African-American church goers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. CNN has consistently been critical of Donald Trump over the course of the past few years, and it is likely that this negative relationship is what provoked Sayoc to send bombs to the network's headquarters.
Sayoc allegedly had a list of around 100 potential targets. The list of these targets has not been publicly released, but the targets have been personally notified. While it appears that Sayoc worked alone, nothing is certain at this point, which is likely the reason for the current secrecy. Sayoc is being held without bail in a Florida jail but awaits a hearing to determine whether he will be moved to New York for his trial. It is still early in the court process for Sayoc, but the coming weeks should bring new information to the development of his case.