Scalise demands FBI reopen probe into 2017 baseball shooting
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and other Republicans on the field in 2017 when a man opened fire at their practice for the congressional baseball game are asking the FBI to reopen their investigation into the shooting and reevaluate their conclusion the shooter sought “suicide by cop.”
The determination on the shooting, which left Scalise seriously wounded, spilled into open view when FBI Director Christopher Wray appeared before lawmakers in April, with Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) asking why the shooter’s political leanings weren’t weighed more heavily.
“We fear that the FBI’s inability or unwillingness to fully investigate this shooting as a matter of domestic extremism four years ago leaves a blind spot within the Bureau in fully assessing risks we face today,” Scalise wrote in a letter alongside Wenstrup and 15 others.
Shooter James Hodgkinson hit four people on the field before he was fatally wounded by return fire.
The FBI briefed lawmakers a few months after the incident that the shooter, who supported left-wing causes on social media and had inquired about the political affiliation of those on the field, had largely carried out the shooting as a suicide attempt. But their conclusion was never made public.
Republicans are seeking to rehash the issue as they put increasing pressure on the FBI to expand its focus on extremists beyond the kinds who played a role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
“Today, there is a heightened focus on violent domestic extremism in the United States. We all agree that violent extremism of any kind must be rooted out and addressed by our law enforcement agencies. But we cannot presume to understand the scope of this issue if our law enforcement agencies do not investigate all instances of extremism, regardless of motivating ideology, with equal vigor,” they write in the letter.
The letter asks the bureau to “review the FBI’s findings of the 2017 attack, interview all witnesses who were present that morning, update the conclusions of the FBI’s investigation, if warranted, and publicly release the findings.”
It also asks the bureau for an internal investigation into the suicide by cop conclusion and “who was behind that process and determination.”
The FBI confirmed it had received the letter and noted that in a late April hearing, Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director of the National Security Branch, told lawmakers “if it were to happen today, we would open this as a domestic terrorism case.”
“It’s fair to say that the shooter was motivated by a desire to commit an attack on members of Congress, and then knowing by doing so, he would likely be killed in the process,” Sanborn said.
“But those things are not inconsistent with someone who is motivated by a variety of factors to commit violent acts, based on a blend of ideological or personal motivations, and this conduct is something that today we would characterize as a domestic terrorism event.”
In congressional briefings during the Trump administration and under President Biden, Wray has pinpointed white nationalism as a growing threat within the U.S.
“Within the domestic terrorism bucket, the category as a whole, racially motivated violent extremism is, I think, the biggest bucket within that larger group. And within the racially motivated violent extremist bucket, people subscribing to some kind of white supremacist-type ideology is certainly the biggest chunk of that,” he said in September.
A March assessment ordered by Biden after the attack on the Capitol found militia groups and white nationalists in particular pose an elevated terror threat.
Tuesday’s letter follows a previous attempt by Wenstrup to reopen the investigation in April, when he penned a letter to Wray saying the suicide by cop determination “defies logic and contradicts the publicly known facts about the perpetrator and the attack.”
Updated: 12:37 p.m.