Florida man pleads guilty to mailing bombs to Trump foes

Florida man pleads guilty to mailing bombs to Trump foes

NEW YORK (AP) — A Florida man pleaded guilty Thursday to sending pipe bombs to CNN and prominent critics of President Donald Trump in a wave of attacks that harmed no one but spread fear of political violence across the U.S. for days leading up to last fall’s midterm elections.

Cesar Sayoc, 57, shackled at the ankles, briefly sobbed as he entered the plea before a New York federal judge.

“I’m extremely sorry,” he said, speaking so softly that sometimes he was told to repeat himself. Though he said he never meant for the devices to explode, he conceded he knew they could.

He could get life in prison at sentencing Sept. 12 on 65 counts, including 16 counts of using a weapon of mass destruction and mailing explosives with intent to kill. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped a charge that carried a mandatory life sentence.

One charge carries a mandatory 10-year prison term that must be served in addition to his sentence on 64 other counts.

Sayoc sent 16 rudimentary bombs — none of which detonated — to targets including Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden, several members of Congress, former President Barack Obama and actor Robert De Niro. Devices were also mailed to CNN offices in New York and Atlanta.

The bombs began turning up over a five-day stretch weeks before the hotly contested midterms, contributing to an already tense political environment. They were mailed to addresses in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, California, Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia.

Sayoc was arrested in late October at a Florida auto parts store. He had been living in a van plastered with Trump stickers and images of Trump opponents with crosshairs over their faces.

On Thursday, he told the judge he made objects designed to look like pipe bombs and filled them with explosive powder from fireworks, fertilizer and glass shards, accompanied by wires and a digital alarm clock.

“Did you intend they would explode?” Judge Jed Rakoff asked.

“No, sir,” Sayoc said.

“What would prevent powder from fireworks from exploding?” Rakoff asked.

“I was aware of the risk they would explode,” Sayoc said.

The first bomb was discovered Oct. 22 in a padded envelope in a mailbox at an estate in New York City’s northern suburbs owned by the billionaire George Soros, a liberal political activist and frequent subject of conspiracy theories.

A device addressed to the home of Hillary and Bill Clinton was discovered the following day, followed a day later by a slew of bombs found at the homes or offices of prominent Democrats. One, addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, was sent to CNN in New York.

Others targeted included California Sen. Kamala Harris, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Rep. Maxine Waters, former Attorney General Eric Holder and billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer.

Over several days, investigators tracked the packages to a mail center in Florida. Prosecutors said the evidence against Sayoc included DNA that linked him to 10 of the devices and fingerprints on two of them.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, who attended the plea proceeding, said in a statement afterward that he was grateful nobody was hurt by the devices, but added that Sayoc’s “actions left an air of fear and divisiveness in their wake.”

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers added: “Our democracy will simply not survive if our political discourse includes sending bombs to those we disagree with.”

He said Sayoc’s crimes “are repulsive to all Americans who cherish a society built on respectful and non-violent political discourse, no matter how strongly held one’s views.”

Religious leaders voice their opposition to legalized recreational marijuana

Religious leaders voice their opposition to legalized recreational marijuana

HUD regional administrator spotlights public housing issues for new federal monitor

HUD regional administrator spotlights public housing issues for new federal monitor

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House Judiciary Committee requests 81 pieces of evidence for investigation into President Trump

House Judiciary Committee requests 81 pieces of evidence for investigation into President Trump

Amazon dumps NYC headquarters and its promised 25,000 jobs

Amazon dumps NYC headquarters and its promised 25,000 jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon abruptly dropped plans Thursday for a big new headquarters in New York that would have brought 25,000 jobs to the city, reversing course after politicians and activists objected to the nearly $3 billion in tax breaks promised to what is already one of the world’s richest, most powerful companies.

“We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York,” the online giant from Seattle said in a blog post announcing its withdrawal.

The stunning move was a serious blow to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had lobbied intensely to land the project, competing against more than 200 other metropolitan areas across the continent that were practically tripping over each other to offer incentives to Amazon in a fierce bidding war the company stoked.

Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York City’s new liberal firebrand, exulted over Amazon’s pullout.

“Today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers and their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” she tweeted, referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

The swift unraveling of the project reflected growing antipathy toward large technology companies among liberals and populists who accuse big business of holding down wages and wielding too much political clout, analysts said.

“This all of a sudden became a perfect test case for all those arguments,” said Joe Parilla, a fellow at the Brooking Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Project.

Amazon ultimately decided it did not want to be drawn into that battle.

Amazon announced in November that it had chosen the Long Island City section of Queens for one of two new headquarters, with the other in Arlington, Virginia. Both would get 25,000 jobs. A third site in Nashville, Tennessee, would get 5,000.

The company had planned to spend $2.5 billion building the New York office, choosing the area in part because of its large pool of tech talent.

The governor and the mayor had argued that Amazon would transform the neighborhood into a high-tech hub and spur economic growth that would pay for the $2.8 billion in state and city incentives many times over.

After Amazon’s change of heart, Cuomo complained that “a small group of politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community.” And the mayor criticized Amazon for not doing more to try to win over New Yorkers.

“You have to be tough to make it in New York City,” de Blasio said.

In pulling out of New York, Amazon said it isn’t looking for a replacement location “at this time.” It said it plans to spread the technology jobs that were slated for New York to other offices around the U.S. and Canada, including Chicago, Toronto and Austin, Texas. It will also expand its existing New York offices, which already have about 5,000 employees.

Amazon faced fierce opposition over the tax breaks, with critics complaining that the project was an extravagant giveaway — or worse, a shakedown — and that it wouldn’t provide much direct benefit to most New Yorkers.

The list of grievances against the project grew as the months wore on, with critics complaining about Amazon’s stance on unions and some Long Island City residents fretting that the company’s arrival would drive up rents and other costs.

Opposition to the deal was led in the Democrat-controlled state Senate by Michael Gianaris, the chamber’s No. 2 lawmaker, whose district includes Long Island City. Initially among the politicians who supported bringing an Amazon headquarters to the city, Gianaris did an about-face after the deal was announced, criticizing the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the generous incentives.

Earlier this month, Gianaris was appointed to a little-known state panel that could have ultimately been asked to approve the subsidies.

It is unclear whether the City Council had any power to scuttle the deal. But City Council members held hearings at which they grilled Amazon officials about the company’s labor practices, its contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide facial recognition technology and other issues.

Construction industry groups and some local business leaders had urged the public and officials to get behind the plan.

Eric Benaim, a realty executive who gets most of his sales and rentals in Long Island City, had led a petition in support of Amazon, drawing 4,000 signatures.

“I woke up this morning and I had no clue this would happen. Zero. This news is a shock, and I’m devastated,” he said.

A Quinnipiac University poll released in December found New York City voters supported having an Amazon headquarters 57 percent to 26 percent. But they were divided over the incentives: 46 percent in favor, 44 percent against.

Andrew Ousley, a business owner who lives near the proposed site, said he had been considering moving out before Amazon moved in.

“Now that they’re not coming, I’m more likely to stay and see how the neighborhood continues to grow and evolve in a more organic fashion,” he said.

In recent weeks, a City Council leader whose district includes Long Island City tried to get Amazon officials to agree to remain neutral in the face of any potential union drive. But an Amazon executive would not give such a commitment.