As It Happens

After mail bombs target Democrats, former Clinton adviser tells Trump: 'This is on you'

Former Democratic adviser Philippe Reines says the president "has unleashed a hatred and anger, a fury, that he feeds off of, that he in no way tries to abate."

Philippe Reines calls on the president to end hateful rhetoric aimed at those sent packages

Former U.S. president Barack Obama, two-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and billionaire philanthropist George Soros were among the targets of letter bombs this week. (Ethan Miller, Sean Gallup, Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

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Former Democratic adviser Philippe Reines blames this week's rash of mail bombs targeting Democrats on the rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Crude pipe bombs targeting two-time presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, former president Barack Obama, CNN and others were intercepted Tuesday night and Wednesday.

A similar device was found Monday at the home of billionaire Democratic donor George Soros. Maxine Waters, a House Democrat from California, said she had been told by police that her office was also the target of a suspicious package.

Trump quickly condemned the attacks as "despicable" and "abhorrent" and said that "a major federal investigation" is underway. 

But Reines, who served as a senior adviser to Clinton when she was secretary of state, says that's not enough. Here is part of his conversation with As It Happens guest host Megan Williams. 

How did you react when you heard that a bomb had been sent to your former boss Hillary Clinton and these other high-profile figures across the United States?

Unfortunately, in this day and age, my first thought — or my second thought after being happy that they didn't detonate  — was this is a climate where this is hardly surprising.

My third thought was: Who is responsible for that climate?

In fact, then you tweeted shortly after at President Trump: "This is on you." What do you mean by that?

He has unleashed a hatred and anger, a fury, that he feeds off of, that he in no way tries to abate. In fact, he at times has condoned it and excused it.

It doesn't take much for someone to think, "It's OK for me to do something."

I take your point. We've heard the president call the press the "enemy of the people" and lead chants of "Lock her up" during the last election. But we've seen other kinds of incidents of violence or attempted violence in the past. ... Is fair to say that the president incited this kind of violence?

I won't say that if Donald Trump didn't exist, that might not happen.

But boy is it a coincidence that the list of people starting from Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Maxine Waters, [Congresswoman] Debbie Wasserman Schultz, CNN and [former CIA director] John Brennan — this is literally like the person is writing down names as Trump tweets them or as he recites them at a rally.

Members of the New York Police Department walk outside the Time Warner Center after a suspicious package was found inside the CNN Headquarters in Manhattan. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Donald Trump today did make what seems like a pretty clear statement. He said, "Acts or threats of political violence have no place in the United States." What do you make of that?

I was watching it live. You know, he couldn't have spent any less time talking about it than he did. He didn't name any of the people.

And more importantly, he'll be in Wisconsin tonight for a political rally, and I have a feeling we'll see that this won't hold. And even if it holds for a day, it won't hold for more than 24 hours. He can't help himself.

Trump comments on explosive devices

3 years ago
Duration 2:07
U.S. president addresses the incident where packages containing 'potential explosive devices' were sent to Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN 2:07

What would you like him to say?

It's a matter of what I'd like him to not say.

I'd like him not to stand there and call Maxine Waters "Low IQ Maxine Waters."

I'd like him to not say that John Brennan is a traitor.

I'd like for him to not say George Soros is some kind of conspiracy nut. Because it's no coincidence that he talks about George Soros in the context of this [migrant] caravan and that someone then sent him a bomb.

How does the president's tweet fit into these kinds of conspiracy theories that are floating around about George Soros?

He allows these conspiracy theories to go on.

You can find Republican after Republican, people of serious note, including [Center for Security Policy founder] Frank Gaffney and [political pundit] Anne Coulter, suggesting that this is a hoax, that this is a Democrat doing it to frame the Republicans, that it's George Soros sending it to himself.

I can scream at the top of my lungs that these are conspiracy theories ... but there's only one person who has a fighting chance to tell his people to stop.

Do you have any hope that politicians on the right, the Republicans, will now realize that maybe the rhetoric against their opponents should be toned down?

Not a shred of hope. It's become too much of their bread and butter. It's like oxygen to them. They can't live without it.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Associated Press. Produced by Chris Harbord. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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