Washington, Oct 26 (EFE).- The Florida man arrested in connection with the package bombs sent to prominent critics of President Donald Trump faces up to 48 years in prison, US officials said Friday.
“These charges may change or expand as the investigation continues,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a press conference.
FBI director Christopher Wray confirmed that the suspect in custody is Cesar Altieri Sayoc and that authorities intercepted 13 improvised explosive devices in the packages sent to prominent figures throughout the country.
“Today’s arrest does not mean we’re out of the woods. There may be other packages in transit now, other packages on the way,” Wray said.
The FBI director rejected the possibility that the devices were fake or part of a hoax.
“Each device consisted of roughly six inches of PVC pipe, a small clock, a battery, some wiring, and what is known as ‘energetic material’, which is essentially potential explosives and material that gives off heat and energy through a reaction to heat, shock, or friction,” he said.
Sessions acknowledged that the suspect acted for political motives, while highlighting that “political violence” is “utterly unacceptable.”
Wray, however, said he could not answer questions about the suspect’s motive, as the “investigation is still ongoing.”
Sayoc, a 56-year old resident of Aventura, Florida, was formally charged before a federal court in New York on Friday.
Authorities were able to find Sayoc after identifying one of his fingerprints on a package he sent to Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Wray said.
Sayoc was apprehended in a shopping center in Plantation, Florida, northwest of Miami, and authorities seized the white van he was driving.
The van was covered with photos of Trump and with threatening images against figures such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – the intended recipient of one of the packages – and filmmaker Michael Moore.
Trump said Friday that the suspect would face “swift and certain justice,” while urging Americans to “unify” against these “despicable” acts.
“I am pleased to inform you that law enforcement has apprehended the suspect and taken him into custody,” Trump said during an event at the White House.
The president said that his administration would prosecute the suspect and anyone else possibly involved to the “fullest extent of the law.”
Trump praised US law enforcement agencies for their “incredible job” capturing the suspect, adding that finding the alleged culprit was like uncovering “a needle in a haystack.”
The president said that the sending of the suspicious packages containing suspected explosives was a “terrorizing” act that has “no place in our country.”
“We must never allow political violence to take root in America. We cannot let it happen. I am committed to do everything in my power as president to stop it and stop it now,” Trump said.
“Americans must unify and we must show the world that we are united together in peace and love and harmony as fellow American citizens,” he added.
The arrest came after 12 people received suspicious packages containing suspected explosives in the last few days, including former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The last two packages, intercepted on Friday in Florida and New York, were addressed to Democratic Sen. Cory Booker and to former National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
None of the packages exploded, though they have elevated the level of alert of US authorities, as they fear more packages will be found in the coming days.
The FBI said Friday via Twitter that a similar package was found in Florida addressed to Sen. Booker, who is considered to be a possible contender in the 2020 presidential election.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) intercepted a suspicious package on Friday addressed to Clapper at a post office in Manhattan.
The discovery of suspicious packages containing suspected explosives began on Monday, when billionaire philanthropist George Soros, a known Democratic donor, received one at his home in the state of New York.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, two packages were sent to Hillary Clinton and Obama, while other similar packages were sent to former Attorney General Eric Holder, Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, former CIA Director John Brennan and CNN’s New York offices.
The fact that all of the packages were addressed to members of the Democratic Party or to Trump critics suggests a possible political motivation.
The episode comes less than two weeks ahead of the Nov. 6 mid-term congressional elections.
Trump acknowledged Friday that the discovery of the suspicious packages could affect Republican candidates’ momentum for the mid-term elections, in which a third of the seats in the House of Representatives and all of the seats in the Senate are up for grabs.