Russian Emails Behind DA Bomb Hoax Amid Trump Probe

(March 24, 2023, 2:23 PM EDT) -- Russian email accounts sent a series of hoax bomb threats targeting the Manhattan district attorney and court buildings for three straight days this week amid a grand jury investigation of former President Donald Trump.

An NYPD vehicle is parked near New York City courthouses

Security has ramped up outside the Manhattan district attorney's office and surrounding courthouses after a series of unsubstantiated bomb threats this week. (Frank G. Runyeon | Law360)

The unsubstantiated threats, now under investigation by the New York Police Department and FBI, were emailed to local government officials at a Manhattan community board, according to police. They came from Russian email addresses in the early morning hours on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, listing government buildings and schools as the targets of alleged pipe bombs, according to the local board official who received them.

"The FBI told me that they appear to be coming from Russia," said Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3, who read the emails to Law360 Friday. The board received four email threats over the three days, often sent from @mail.ru domains under different names, she said. The NYPD confirmed the board was the recipient of the original bomb threat on Tuesday.

The FBI declined to comment.

Separately on Friday, a suspicious white powder was delivered to the offices of District Attorney Alvin Bragg in an envelope marked "Alvin," according to the NYPD. The letter contained "a single piece of white paper with a brief message containing the typewritten words 'Alvin: I am going to kill you' followed by 13 exclamation points," according to The New York Times.

A police spokesperson would not confirm the content of the message or information about its sender.

A spokesperson for the district attorney said that "it was immediately contained and that the NYPD Emergency Service Unit and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection determined there was no dangerous substance."

The district attorney's office has also received "offensive or threatening phone calls or emails," according to an internal email from Bragg obtained by the New York Daily News.

Attorneys for Trump did not respond to a request for comment about the threats Friday.

The emailed threats did not mention Trump or the grand jury mulling indicting him for an illegal hush money payment allegedly designed to tip the 2016 election in his favor, the local official said. Still, they used language that echoed his recent attacks on the case, referring to "the downfall of our country" and stating, "You people are destroying America."

The grand jury is considering a possible indictment of Trump on charges that he directed his former attorney Michael Cohen to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to bury her claims of an affair before the 2016 presidential election, and covered up Cohen's reimbursement as legal fees.

An FBI and special counsel investigation of interference in the 2016 election found that Russia engaged in a sprawling online campaign to manipulate public perceptions in favor of Trump. The investigation found that Trump did not conspire with Russia.

Stetzer said she first reported the bomb threats Tuesday morning by contacting local police precincts and dialing 911. Since then, she has been in regular contact with the FBI.

"Now when I get them, which I haven't today, I just forward it to the FBI," Stetzer said late Friday morning.

In response to questions, NYPD said it had one threat on file for Tuesday of an email "sent from an unidentified individual who stated they are placing various explosive devices at locations throughout the city. There are no arrests and the investigation is ongoing."

Beginning last weekend, Trump called for protests of Bragg's investigation with increasingly heated language as he criticized the possible charges against him and incorrectly predicted he would be arrested on Tuesday.

Among a dozen posts on Truth Social about Bragg posted Thursday, Trump called the district attorney an "animal" and "human scum," compared him to Joseph Stalin and the Gestapo, and said, "He is doing the work of Anarchists and the Devil, who want our Country to fail." Trump also posted a link with an image of him holding a baseball bat beside an image of Bragg's head.

"You're still allowed to self-defend in this Country!" Trump posted Wednesday, additionally claiming that anti-fascist "lunatics" are infiltrating conservative gatherings.

Early Friday morning, Trump said that "potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our Country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!"

The New York City bomb threats used similar rhetoric.

A threat sent Thursday that targeted the district attorney's office and schools said: "You people are disgusting degenerates. Fuck you and fuck everything you stand for. You are responsible for the downfall of our country and you will die," Stetzer said, quoting from the email.

One threat Wednesday read: "Evacuate before the bombs go off. You people are destroying America so we will destroy you," according to Stetzer.

Stetzer declined to share the emails directly with Law360.

The threats have led to heightened security at the court buildings in Lower Manhattan, which have included regular sweeps for bombs and a more visible presence of police officers and court officers along with barricades surrounding the entrances to the district attorney's office.

The district attorney's office has declined to comment on the threats.

Meanwhile, a Manhattan federal judge presiding over a writer's civil defamation and rape suit against Trump on Thursday ruled that jurors in the case will remain anonymous, drawing a link between the former president's recent rhetoric and threats to public safety.

"Mr. Trump's quite recent reaction to what he perceived as an imminent threat of indictment by a grand jury sitting virtually next door to this court was to encourage 'protest' and to urge people to 'take our country back.' That reaction reportedly has been perceived by some as incitement to violence," U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan wrote. "And it bears mention that Mr. Trump repeatedly has attacked courts, judges, various law enforcement officials and other public officials, and even individual jurors in other matters."

Judge Kaplan noted, however, that "it matters not whether Mr. Trump incited violence in either a legal or a factual sense. The point is whether jurors will perceive themselves to be at risk."

Joe Tacopina, a criminal defense attorney for Trump, told Law360 Thursday, "We have no problem with the ruling," but declined to comment on the social media posts or threats.

--Editing by Robert Rudinger.

Update: This article was updated with details about a suspicious white powder delivered to the district attorney's offices, and a report of offensive and threatening phone calls and emails to the DA's office.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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