Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old, far-right Trump supporter from southern Florida, is facing five federal charges and up to 48 years in prison for sending 15 pipe bombs to Democratic officials, supporters, donors, and the CNN headquarters.
During the week of October 22, just weeks before the midterm elections, suspicious packages were intercepted in the mail before they could reach their intended targets. The pipe bombs—improvised explosive devices that create potentially lethal shrapnel—found inside these packages contained traces of Sayoc’s DNA, which helped the FBI locate him.
Sayoc is believed to have created the bombs in the white Dodge van where he had been living since his parents kicked him out in 2015. The exterior of his van is adorned with headshots of Trump and Pence, the depiction of crosshairs over the faces of Hillary Clinton and Van Jones, and the message such as “CNN Sucks."
The fourteen people these packages were addressed to include: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, George Soros, James Clapper, and more. The incident sent shock waves throughout the Democratic Party and the country.
At a rally in Wisconsin on Wednesday, October 24, Trump addressed the issue. While he did call the incident “despicable and abhorrent,” he also used much of the night to pat himself on the back and jab at his long time foe—the media.
Trump did not take any responsibility for the attempted bombings and issued no apology despite the divisive and violent rhetoric that he has circulated throughout his campaign and presidency. He did place some of the blame for the attacks on the media, calling for the mainstream media to do better.
The pipe bomb act has been called an incident of “domestic terrorism." The Gavel reached out to Boston College political science professor and terrorism expert Peter Krause to weigh in on the issue.
When asked if these attacks qualify as an act of terrorism, Professor Krause responded by stating that while “details are still coming out, it seems clear that this was the use or threat of violence by a non-state actor for political ends.”
“We don’t know for sure whether the suspect aimed to inspire fear beyond the targets, but it seems plausible," he continued. “Some of the targets were elected officials and so may fall more under an assassination attempt rather than a terrorist attack. It seems likely that some, if not all, of these incidents qualify as terrorist attacks under that general definition.”
His ending note was grave and poignant: “...this was clearly a cowardly and serious attack on some of our elected officials and media organizations. I’m relieved that no one was hurt, and I hope that this sparks a sobering conversation about the rising threat of political violence in this country. Unfortunately, I think it will lead to even more polarization."