The man suspected of mailing more than a dozen crude package explosives to top Democrats and others nationwide in recent days faces five federal charges that could land the 56-year-old in prison for the rest of his life, with officials confirming Friday evening that a 14th package was sent to businessman Tom Steyer.
Cesar Sayoc, Jr. a man formerly from Brooklyn who lived in Florida, was taken into custody in his current home state earlier in the day, nearly at the same time as law enforcement in Manhattan and the Sunshine State tried to secure the latest two packages discovered. Another would later be found in California and yet another was sent to Steyer, officials said Friday night, bringing the total number of IEDs to 14.
Steyer is a businessman whose TV ads advocate President Trump's impeachment.
Sayoc has retained a lawyer, a senior official told NBC News, and is refusing to tell the FBI how many packages were sent. Two sources said he was questioned under national security exception and denied the charges.
Sessions cautioned that Sayoc had only been charged, not convicted. But he said, “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. We will find you, we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
It was a latent fingerprint on one of those packages, one found Wednesday that was addressed to Rep. Maxine Waters in California, that helped connect Sayoc to the packages, Sessions said. Other DNA evidence factored in as well.
Sayoc faces five federal charges, including interstate transportation of explosives, illegal mailing of explosives, threats to political figures and other offenses. He could serve up to 48 years in prison if convicted. The FBI cautioned similar packages may still turn up and asked people to remain vigilant.
A senior law enforcement official says authorities aren't looking for any other suspects in the case. They are, however, tracking down the associates and contacts of Sayoc, a registered Republican and ardent Trump supporter, as part of their investigation. Sayoc has past arrests, including for battery, theft and other offenses. Learn more details about his past and arrest record here.
The FBI had moved the focus of their search for a suspect to south Florida, saying Thursday it appeared the pipe bombs first passed through the regional post office, meaning some if not all of the bombs were mailed from that area.
The U.S. Postal Service issued an official statement Friday, saying it was working closely with law enforcement partners on the probe.
"The Postal Service reminds our employees and customers to be safe, watchful and observant regarding the proper identification and disposition of suspicious packages."
FOUR MORE PACKAGES FRIDAY; TOTAL HITS 14
The 11th and 12th suspected mail explosives were discovered in Manhattan and in Florida early Friday, one addressed to former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and one to New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, law enforcement sources and officials familiar with the investigation tell News 4 and NBC News.
A 13th package, this one addressed to Sen. Kamala Harris, was intercepted at a facility in California, two law enforcement officials said. That package appears similar to the others; its contents have not been described.
The device intercepted in Florida was addressed to the Camden, New Jersey, office of Booker, another high-profile Democrat. It was located at a sorting facility, Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center, in Opa-lacka.
Federal officials confirmed Friday evening yet another was sent to Steyer.
"Cowardly acts of terror will never silence or intimidate Americans—they will only strengthen our resolve to stand against fear & hatred," Booker tweeted.
The device seized in Manhattan was addressed to Clapper at CNN. Clapper was tapped to lead the national intelligence program by former President Barack Obama, another target of the packages, in 2010.
Clapper, speaking on CNN shortly after the device was secured, said, "This is definitely domestic terrorism, no question in my mind."
Acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, he said he was glad no one had been hurt or killed. Clapper also had a clear message: "This is not going to silence the administration’s critics."
President Trump tangentially addressed the issue in a tweet after the suspected bombs were seized, writing, "Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this 'Bomb' stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows.'"
Hours later, after news of the arrest, Trump topped his remarks at an unrelated event by saying he was "pleased to inform" the nation the man was in custody. He called the mail bombs "despicable" and said they "have no place in our America," and offered applause to the various local, state and federal law enforcement departments who helped bring the suspect into custody.
THE TARGETS AND THE DEVICES
None of the apparent bombs detonated, no injuries were reported and authorities said Thursday it appeared some of the devices were flawed and incapable of exploding. Initially authorities left open the notion the design could have been intentional, but FBI officials said Friday the devices were not hoaxes.
Officials did not elaborate on a possible motive at the news briefing Friday.
Three of the packages -- two addressed to former Vice President Joe Biden in Delaware and one addressed to Robert De Niro at a building he owns in Manhattan -- were discovered in a flurry of frenzied hours Thursday.
The others came in the prior 72 hours: two, including the one that had the latent fingerprint, were addressed to Waters; others were also addressed to Hillary Clinton, former President Obama, ex-Attorney General Eric Holder and former CIA Director John Brennan. The first was left at billionaire philanthropist George Soros' home in Westchester County on Monday.
Officials said Friday the explosive devices were each made from 6 inches of PVC pipe and contained a "strong clock" (likely a digital alarm) to set off the detonator. Each one had batteries, wiring and what authorities described as "energetic material" necessary for an explosion. X-rays show there was likely shrapnel inside the PVC pipe, law enforcement officials said earlier this week.
The return address listed on each one was the Florida office of ex-Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Investigators are looking into any past incidents involving her office to determine if there could be any connections to the current probe, but have said there is no suggestion she had involvement.
Prior to the mailing spree, Sayoc allegedly threatened former Secretary of State John Kerry on Twitter. An account linked to him posted a message Oct. 1 saying, in part, "Kerry shut criminal mouth before you vanish with all BS crap" and including some nonsensical remarks about "Biden Obama," $15 billion in taxpayer money and China.