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FOR THE WEEK OF OCT. 29, 2018

Tense week ends with arrest of suspect accused of mailing explosives to Obama, CNN, others

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Americans were rattled last week by 13 small devices with explosive capability that were mailed to a CNN bureau, an ex-president, three Congress members, other high-profile Democrats and a few of their prominent backers. An intensive five-day federal manhunt brought an arrest Friday in South Florida, where FBI agents nabbed a 56-year-old man named Cesar Sayoc in a van covered with a collage of pro-Trump stickers. He's charged with five crimes. At the White House, President Trump said after the arrest: "These terrorizing acts are despicable and have no place in our country. . . . We must never allow political violence to take root in America. We cannot let it happen."

Targets of the six-inch pipe bombs, as authorities call them, include Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, past Vice President Joe Biden, past Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, Sen. Corey Booker, Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and actor Robert De Niro. At least three devices were accompanied by a photo of the recipient with a red X on the face. Nothing exploded, but the series of scary discoveries drew fresh attention to America's notably harsh political divide and to presidential rhetoric that critics say could propel unhinged people to violence. The suspect's Facebook page shows him in a red "Make America Great Again" cap at a 2016 Trump rally. He's a registered Republican with a decades-long criminal history that includes a bomb threat.

CNN and some others who got the dangerous packages have been criticized and mocked repeatedly by the president. The case brings new calls for civility in political rhetoric. "There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media," says CNN boss Jeff Zucker. James Clapper, a former national intelligence director who was among last week's targets, says: "This is not going to silence the administration's critics."

Presidential tweet: "A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News." – Last Thursday

New York City mayor says: "The packages are clearly an effort to terrorize people politically, to choose people for political purposes and attack them because of their beliefs." – Bill De Blasio

Columnist says: "The Trump effect is a straight line from years of his hateful rhetoric to real-world danger. It's a line that goes directly from disrespect to pipe bomb." – Margaret Sullivan, The Washington Post

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2019
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