Federal authorities are investigating reports of suspicious letters sent to public officials, a Justice Department spokesperson said Thursday.
“We are aware of these reports and the FBI and the United States Postal Inspection Service are investigating this matter,” a department spokesperson said in response to a department inquiry. CNN.
Public authorities in California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Washington have reported receiving suspicious mail. Most of the letters appear to target election offices.
Investigators are treating all letters as related to the case for now, given the timeline, an official said. CNN.
So far, more than 10 cases have been reported, the official said.
The FBI said it had “responded to several incidents involving suspicious letters sent to vote counting centers in several states” but could not comment further on an ongoing case.
“The public can be assured that law enforcement will continue to make public safety their top priority,” the agency added.
In a statement released Thursday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Fulton County — which includes large areas of Atlanta — was among the election offices targeted by the suspicious letters.
Georgia officials said the letter Fulton County received was suspected of containing fentanyl.
“We are working with our state and federal partners to determine whether additional Georgia employees are being targeted,” Raffensperger said. “Domestic terrorists will not trample on our right to free and fair elections. »
A CNN previously reported that election offices in several counties in Washington state received envelopes containing powdery substances on Wednesday.
At a news conference Thursday, Raffensperger called on elected officials and candidates to condemn the activity and cited his son’s death to convey the seriousness of the matter.
“Some people like to call fentanyl a drug, but it’s actually a poison,” he said. “It will kill you… very quickly and easily.” It’s very dangerous.”
“We lost our son five and a half years ago to a fentanyl overdose. We know how deadly this thing is,” Raffensperger continued.
Fentanyl was found in an envelope received Wednesday by election officials in King County, Washington — where Seattle is located — county elections director Julie Wise said. CNN.
Employees who opened the envelope detected the white powder and immediately isolated the letter, called authorities and evacuated the building.
Wise said her team had not read the contents of the letter, but she described the situation as eerily similar to a previous case, when another letter — which said there should be no elections – was also later found to contain traces of fentanyl.
She said the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the incident.
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Yesterday’s letter arrived as authorities were counting votes following local elections on Tuesday (7) and prompted the evacuation of around 150 workers for three hours.
“It’s devastating” for county election workers to be targeted in this way, Wise said. “They are human beings. They have families. They are there to do a job. They believe in democracy.
According to Wise, his team returned to work as soon as possible on Wednesday, undeterred by the incident.
“It actually energized us even more,” he added. “It made us want to continue doing the important work of processing ballots.” …We will not be destroyed.
In neighboring Oregon, an elections office in Lane County — located about 125 miles south of Portland — also received suspicious mail Wednesday, a county official said. CNN.
These reports come against the backdrop of election officials facing threats and harassment, initially sparked by false claims of voter fraud in 2020.
Voting rights activists and some state election officials have warned that the overheated political climate surrounding the vote has contributed to a wave of layoffs and retirements of election officials across the country.
The U.S. Department of Justice has filed charges against at least 14 people after creating a task force in 2021 to respond to threats against election workers, according to a recent department summary.
At Thursday’s news conference in Georgia, Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts said the letters showed there were “crazy people who would go to extreme lengths to disrupt” U.S. elections.
“Personally, I believe this is probably a precursor to what we can prepare for in 2024.”
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