News crews arrived at the auto parts store in Florida where authorities arrested mail-bomb suspect Cesar Sayoc, 56, before FBI agents could secure and remove a white van that purportedly belongs to Sayoc. Television cameras obtained images of the van, revealing windows covered with apparent images of President Trump and slogans and rhetoric common among Trump supporters. Mixed in were graphics apparently created by Sayoc himself. Authorities soon covered the van with a heavy blue tarp.
The images spread quickly on social media, with several people indicating that they’d seen — and photographed — the van in the area of Florida where Sayoc lived. Natalie Kline photographed the van in May 2017 and provided photos to The Washington Post.
There are three large windows, two on the driver’s side and one on the passengers' side, covered with images and text. The double doors on the passenger side each had images covering the windows; the doors at the back of the van were covered mostly with text. The only windows without some sort of graphics were the drivers' side window and, presumably, the windshield.
This image, a digitally created collage of images and text, appears on both the rear passenger and middle driver’s side windows.
It can be seen on the driver’s side in the news photo below. It’s clearly one image repeated in both places, undercutting the assertion by Rush Limbaugh and others that there’s something suspicious about how neatly organized the images are.
Let’s focus on that image first.
Section 1. There are three images across the top of the collage showing Trump and Vice President Pence giving thumbs-ups. There’s also a flag with white, black, red and yellow bars.
That image appears to be a flag for “the Unconquered Seminoles of Florida Tribal Council,” reinforcing the text that appears underneath it: “Native Americans for Trump.” The flag appears in a Twitter feed that appears to be Sayoc’s, as below.
The tribe denies that he is a member.
The text that accompanies the image in the tweet is a jumbled mishmash of politics, Native American identity and mixed-martial arts. Sayoc’s van — which appears to be a sort of mobile version of the feed — includes repeated mentions of sports, including MMA.
Section 2. The second row of the van’s decal includes a logo for “American Top Team MMA,” which also makes an appearance in the Twitter feed. The image at far right appears to be a promotion for some sort of MMA event called “Hard Rock Weekly.” In addition to his main account, @hardrock2016, Sayoc appears to have run another account called @hardrockintlent — perhaps shorthand for Hard Rock International Entertainment. The tweet above includes a claim that “Hard Rock [has] millions [of] customers.” If there was an actual business isn’t clear. There don’t appear to have been any posts at that second account that aren’t images and text related to politics, with the exception of sporadic tweets about soccer.
The van has repeated mentions of soccer, including at the left side of the second row of the decal. What “Top Youth Soccer Recruits for Trump” means is not clear.
Section 3. The lower left corner of the decal includes a few things that could be pertinent to the mail-bomb investigation. There’s this image, for example, also posted to Sayoc’s Twitter feed. (Twitter has since suspended the account.)
It makes reference to a number of people targeted with bombs, including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and CNN. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) is pictured; her office was listed as the return address on the bomb packages.
The other images on that illustration and the text are broadly prominent conservative conspiracy theories that were popular during the Obama administration. There’s a reference to “Fast & Furious,” an effort to track illegal gun sales early in Obama’s first term that was the subject of a sweeping conspiracy theory. There’s an image of former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner (between Al Sharpton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)), the centerpiece of an effort at the IRS to scrutinize groups that claimed tax exemptions while engaging in political work. (Many tea party groups were singled out for scrutiny, prompting another conspiracy theory.)
In other words, the “swamp” shown in the graphic is the muddy water of anti-Democratic sentiment over the past decade or so, with a bit of the media thrown in.
Most of the rest of this section of the decal focuses on attacking perceived enemies of Trump. Hillary Clinton, filmmaker Michael Moore, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein and CNN’s Van Jones are pictured with targets superimposed on them. Jones appears next to the statement “CNN sucks.” There’s a target over Obama, too; he’s pictured as a child riding a tricycle.
Section 4. This shows Trump riding a tank.
The two side doors on the passenger side have the following images on the windows.
Section 5. At left are a series of conservative memes. The subjects vary; at top center on the left window is an image focused on Hillary Clinton getting debate questions. At lower left is a meme about how much the Obamas purportedly spent on vacation while he was president.
The text below those various memes reads, “I Am Donald Trump & I Approve This Message.”
Section 6. At right is a collection of mostly religious and pro-Trump imagery and messaging. In a photo he posted on Twitter, a man who appears to be Sayoc can be seen wearing a shirt that bears the same image.
The top bar includes Trump’s frequent (and incorrect) assertion that pundits said he had “no path” to 270 electoral votes but instead won 306 electoral votes in a “landslide.” (He actually received 304 votes after two of his electors defected. The result was not a landslide, depending on 78,000 votes in three states. He lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million.) This section again mentions Native American support for Trump.
Across the middle are references to voting against abortion and, among other things, an image of Jesus Christ.
A second red bar reads: “Buy American — Drive American / Americans & America first / God, Great Spirit blessings / Thank you all military vets and police”.
Beneath that are images of celebrity Trump supporters, including Toby Keith, Lee Greenwood and Kid Rock.
The passenger’s side front door included these images at the time Kline took her photos.
Most prominent is the pseudo-presidential seal. At lower right is a yellow “ISIS Hunting Permit,” a mock hunting permit targeting the Islamic State. Above that is lettered text, reading: “Jobs Jobs / Pres. Trump creates 28,000 new jobs in February alone / Obama-Democrats lost 286,000 jobs.” This appears to be a reference to manufacturing jobs and includes jobs lost during the recession.
A later image posted by another user on social media shows much more text on the window, but it’s hard to make out.
That user also posted an image showing the van’s back windows. It includes references to soccer and the University of North Carolina. There’s a Trump bumper sticker (apparently from the campaign), the “ISIS hunting permit,” the Seminole flag, an American Top Team decal and the NCAA 2017 college soccer rankings.
The driver’s side of the van looks like this, according to news cameras that were present at the time of Sayoc’s arrest.
That same decal from sections 1-4 above is seen, as is a large version of the presidential seal. It can be seen more clearly in this photo from April.
What was added was a strip of text and photos that were also tweeted from the @hardrockintlent account. At right is a general pro-Republican/anti-Democrat message including the phrase “Tackling Illegal Immigration.”
At left is a series of photos and text that appears to be a sort of de facto endorsement from the “Unconquered Seminole Tribe” for Republican candidates in Florida, including Gov. Rick Scott (R), who is running for Senate, and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), the nominee for governor.
Included at the bottom of the decal is a mention of California billionaire Tom Steyer: “No Tom Steyer California $ influence in Fla. ever!” it reads.
Shortly after Sayoc’s arrest became public, another bomb was discovered targeting a prominent Trump opponent: Steyer.