Federal officials have reportedly intercepted an envelope addressed to President Donald Trump at the White House containing the discrete poison ricin. The news broke on Saturday, as federal law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the poisoned letter was found in a routine screening. An investigation into this poisoning attempt is ongoing, so details are slim.
Officials spoke about the ricin attack on the condition of anonymity, as multiple agencies are still searching for the origin of the package. The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are all taking part in the investigation. Ricin is a poison which occurs naturally in castor beans, but is lethal in concentrated doses. It was made famous in Breaking Bad, where Walter White explained that ricin is "easy to overlook in an autopsy."
An official statement from the FBI said that agents are investigating "a suspicious letter received at a U.S. government mail facility," and stressed that there is "no known threat to public safety" at this time. Law enforcement sources have now confirmed the story with multiple news agencies, but so far Trump and the White House have not issued a public statement.
This is not the first time ricin has been used in an assassination attempt in the U.S. As recently as 2018, U.S. Navy veteran William Clyde Allen III was arrested for sending envelopes to the White House containing ground castor beans. Allen confessed to these acts, and his envelopes were intercepted, though it is not clear whether the unprocessed beans could have been enough to injure or kill anyone. He sent envelopes addressed to the president, then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, then-CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher Wray and the Navy's top officer, Adm. John Richardson. He sent one to the Air Force's Secretary Heather Wilson as well.
Before that, a Mississippi man was arrested in 2014 after sending ricin-dusted letters to President Barack Obama, and members of his administration as well. While these attempts were thwarted, Breaking Bad pointed out at least one instance where the poison was used successfully.
Ricin is lethal if it is inhaled, ingested or injected into a person. It is dangerous because it is easy to manufacture with limited supplies, and is lethal in such small doses. It is a part of the waste product created in the production of castor oil. Anyone who believes they have been in contact with the poison should get outside into fresh air, and call emergency responders immediately.