As the total number of suspicious packages sent to Democrats and other Trump critics ticked up to 12 on Friday, President Donald Trump had a new message: The pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats, including two former presidents, were a distraction from his midterms message.
“Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this ‘Bomb’ stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics,” Trump tweeted. “Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!”
Republicans are doing so well in early voting, and at the polls, and now this “Bomb” stuff happens and the momentum greatly slows - news not talking politics. Very unfortunate, what is going on. Republicans, go out and vote!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 26, 2018
On Wednesday, Trump urged unity and condemned “acts of political violence.” But he quickly abandoned that message to focus on the media. Now he’s implying that what’s “unfortunate” about the bomb attacks is that the “news [is] not talking politics” as the midterms approach.
These are also Trump’s first remarks after two more packages were uncovered bound for former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper at CNN’s offices and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ); he spent the rest of the morning tweeting about immigration and his loss of Twitter followers.
Trump dismissively referred to suspected explosive devices sent to 12 locations as “‘Bomb’ stuff,” appearing to nod to “false flag” conspiracy theories that have taken off in right-wing circles on the internet, from radio host Rush Limbaugh to Alex Jones’s Infowars. These pundits are claiming the pipe bombs are essentially a Democratic plot to “frame” Trump and his base ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, and help drive liberal voters to the polls.
Trump’s framing of a national security issue as partisan follows a familiar pattern. After events of national significance, such as the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 or the recent Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings, Trump sticks to the script and delivers measured remarks — before ultimately veering into attack mode.
With these suspicious packages, Trump moved off his message of unity in less than 24 hours after the first round of bombs were detected, blaming the media for sowing division at a rally and then attacking “fake news” for fomenting anger and spreading “purposefully false” stories on Thursday. Friday morning, hours before another suspicious package was intercepted en route to CNN, Trump blasted the network for “blaming me for the current spate of Bombs.”
Many of the people who were sent packages are not just critics of the president, but frequent targets at his rallies and on Twitter. CNN and others called out Trump’s incendiary rhetoric as possibly fueling this type of political violence, to which the White House responded that Trump was trying to unite the country, but that CNN “chose to attack and divide.”