Teflon Trump: He pins bombs on others, yet keeps support
His supporters are unmoved amid Republican-Democrat blame game following the arrest of suspected bomb plotter
The apartment block looked idyllic, but for the flash of police lights. Set by the coast in Aventura, a suburban city just north of Miami, it rose about 25 floors. Children came home with towels around their shoulders after a day in the water. Parents in shorts and T-shirts enjoyed the late autumn sun.
There was little to suggest the block once housed Cesar Sayoc, the 56-year-old Trump supporter accused of orchestrating a bombing spree against the pin-ups of liberal America, from the Obamas to CNN and Robert de Niro.
The plot, an apparent genuine attempt to take life, gripped the country last week and forced political discourse and the divided nature of US politics back into the spotlight.
A five-day manhunt finally tracked down Sayoc, thanks to a fingerprint on one of the packages, to the city of Plantation, a 30-minute drive north of the apartment block.
His white van, plastered with pro-Trump stickers and posters naming liberal hate-figures alongside crosshair symbols, was covered by police and taken away for evidence.
The episode has been seen as emblematic of the political gulf between the Republican and Democrat halves of America, both suspicious of the other’s aims and motives.
US President Donald Trump called for “unity” in the wake of the attacks, but partly blamed the media, pulling few punches at public rallies.
Prosecutors, who charged Sayoc with five federal crimes, said the fervent Trump supporter unwittingly left behind a wealth of clues.
The bubble-wrapped manila envelopes, addressed to Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and intercepted, held the forensic evidence that was used to arrest Sayoc four days after the investigation started.
On Thursday, as the police closed in, Sayoc was working as a DJ at a West Palm Beach nightclub. “I didn’t know this guy was mad crazy like this,” said Stacy Saccal, the club’s manager. “Never once did he speak politics. This is a bar. We don’t talk politics or religion, you know?”
But Scott Meigs, another DJ at the club, had a different experience.
He said Sayoc had been talking about politics to everybody at the club for the past two weeks, preaching the need to elect Republicans during the November midterms. “I just figured he was passionate about the elections.”
At a Republican rally outside Jacksonville, northern Florida, on Thursday, before Sayoc was named as the suspect, there was little blame for Trump for the coarsening of political debate in America.
Kathryn Morton, the 67-year-old chairman of the Duval County Republican Party, said she scored the president’s blame for the state of politics today at one in 10.
“People will not like certain phrases he uses, but they are unaccustomed to a president being confrontational and sticking up for himself, his family and his country for that matter. People are still kind of shocked about that,” she said.
“Bottom line. I don’t care if he swears or not. He is standing up for himself and he’s standing up for us and he’s standing up for America. I don’t care. It’s about time somebody got a backbone and stood up.”
She defended Trump’s swipe at the media, saying: “One incident on one day, which is still somewhat questionable, doesn’t change the media and their bias and confrontational spirit, and their flat-out lies.”
Frank Nichols, a 62-year-old wearing a Hawaiian shirt featuring multiple images of the American flag, was similarly supportive of Trump.
“I kind of like all the smart alec remarks because everybody else just kind of put up with the Democrats’ tactics, but he’s willing to talk to them and call them out on it,” he said.
He agreed that politics had become bitterly divided, but blamed the other side. “I think the Democrats started it 10, 15 years ago,” he said. “Republicans just kind of wimped out and didn’t fight back. He’s fighting back.”
Trump was asked on Friday whether he should tone down his rhetoric. “I think I’ve been toned down if you want to know the truth,” he responded. “I could really tone it up.”
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited