Opening up the Package Plot

But mysteries linger about Florida suspect Cesar Sayoc.

This week suspicious, potentially explosive packages were sent to former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former vice president Joe Biden, former CIA boss John Brennan (via CNN), former DNC boss Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former Attorney General Eric Holder, Rep. Maxine Waters, billionaire George Soros, and actor Robert De Niro. Warnings that more packages had been sent turned out to be true.

On Friday, authorities intercepted suspicious packages sent to senators Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, former national intelligence director James Clapper, and billionaire Tom Steyer. Like the first group, all are prominent Democrats and critics of President Trump. 

FBI director Christopher Wray described the packages as improvised explosive devices and not “hoax devices,” though according to a U.S. News report it was unclear whether they could be detonated. To date, none of the devices exploded and no one has been harmed, but Wray believes “we’ve caught the right guy.” That turned out to be Cesar Sayoc, 56, and the establishment media cranked out stories on what was known about him.

CNN reported that his van featured images of President Trump as well as a sticker reading “CNN Sucks.” A Facebook video “showed the bomb suspect in a MAGA hat at Trump rally in 2016” and Sayoc was a “registered Republican.” Sayoc also had a criminal record, with arrests for bomb threats, grand theft, battery, fraud, drug possession and probation violations. His lawyer Ronald S. Lowy told CNN Sayoc “didn’t fit it” and he questioned Sayoc’s ability to execute a scheme of explosive devices.

The New York Times learned that Cesar Altieri Sayoc’s father was from the Philippines and his mother from Brooklyn. He “frequently posted in right-wing circles and shared conservative news stories and condemnations of liberal politicians.” Relatives told the Times Sayoc was a body builder who had worked as a male stripper. He had money, lost it, and “wasn’t the most stable guy in the world.” A hairdresser described him as “very antisocial” and “a loner” who lived in his van. Sayoc was not quoted in the article.

The Washington Post described Sayoc as “a man who coupled a deep disdain for Democrats with extreme reverence for the president and his policies.” A woman who employed him as a pizza truck driver told the Post, “He was crazed, that’s the best word for him. There was something really off with him.”

Daniel Aaronson, an attorney who has represented the suspect in the past, told the Post that none of his clients was “as polite and as courteous and as respectful to me” as Sayoc. Aaronson, a Democrat, said “I am very proud of some of the people that were targeted,” and “if he had said anything along those lines, I certainly would have noted it, because we would have gotten into a political discussion.”

CBS News reported that Sayoc’s fingerprint was uncovered from the package sent to Rep. Maxine Waters, and DNA evidence from one of the device also played a role. CBS cited President Trump’s statement that the suspect would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, that “terrorizing acts” were “despicable and have no place in our country," and “we must never allow political violence to take root in America.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the suspect faced five federal charges and could land in prison for 48 years. FBI boss Wray would not say if anyone else had been involved, and on the day of Sayoc’s arrest, mysteries remained.

Why would any Trump supporter commit an act of domestic terrorism that would harm the president, especially at a time when his early achievements were undeniable and his momentum strong? Why would any Trump supporter send explosive devices that played directly into the Democrats’ narrative? At every opportunity, Democrats charge that Trump is responsible for the hostile climate in the nation, which produces acts such as those of which Sayoc is accused.

CBS cited a statement from Tom Steyer, who said the problem was more than “one isolated terrorist in Florida.” Whether “voter suppression, voter intimidation, attacks on our free press, gerrymandering, or attempted violence -- the trust and norms that are the actual basis for our civil society and political system are being eroded.”  

Rep. Maxine Waters called on President Trump to “take responsibility for the kind of violence that we are seeing for the first time in different ways.” In Waters’ view, “the president of the United States has been dog-whistling to his constituency” and Trump “in his own way really does promote a lot of violence.”

As Clinton aide Phillippe Reines has it, this is all on the president, who with every fiber of his “rotten being” has “incited and condoned hate.” Whatever the reality, that narrative is likely to escalate.

Meanwhile, the default description of  Sayoc is a crazed, right-wing nut job. At this writing, he hasn’t said a word to the press, and it is entirely possible there could be more to the man, and the package plot.

On Monday, Cesar Sayoc will appear in federal court in Miami to face charges. As the president says, we’ll see what happens.

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