WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that wounded GOP Congressman Steve Scalise “took a bullet for all of us” when he was shot Wednesday morning at a congressional Republican baseball practice.
The president’s meaning was unclear as he made the comments at an event on Cuba policy in Miami. But Trump went on to say that “Because of him and the tremendous pain and suffering he’s now enduring — and he’s having a hard time, far worse than anybody thought — our country will perhaps become closer, more unified, so important.
“So we all owe Steve a big, big thank you,” Trump added.
Trump made his comments as Scalise remained in critical condition at MedStar Washington Hospital Center following multiple surgeries. The hospital planned to hold a briefing on his condition later in the day Friday.
Earlier Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan paid a visit to his injured colleague, who faces the prospect of a lengthy hospitalization after getting shot in the hip at a baseball practice by a deranged man with grudges against Trump and the GOP.
Aides to Ryan, R-Wis., confirmed the speaker had visited Scalise at the hospital but declined to provide details of the encounter.
It came the morning after Scalise was honored at the charity baseball game where he was supposed to play second base for the House Republican team. The Democratic side won in a blowout, but the game was played in Scalise’s honor with lawmakers of both parties dressed in purple in recognition of Scalise’s Louisiana State University affiliation.
And when it was over, Democratic Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, his team’s manager, accepted the trophy, then gave it to his GOP counterpart, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, to put in Scalise’s office on behalf of the Democrats. After accepting it graciously, Barton cracked, “Next year we won’t be so nice.”
In the course of Thursday night’s charity game, which drew a record attendance to Nationals Park, MedStar hospital issued a new update on Scalise’s condition, saying that the lawmaker “remains in critical condition, but has improved in the last 24 hours. The congressman will require additional operations, and will be in the hospital for some time.”
Scalise was shot in the hip, with the bullet tearing through his pelvis and injuring internal organs.
As Scalise continued his grueling recovering, law enforcement officials proceeded with their investigation of the Wednesday attack at a suburban Virginia park, where shooter James Hodgkinson wounded several other people in addition to Scalise.
Hodgkinson, who had lashed out on social media against Trump and Republicans, was shot and killed by police officers including members of Scalise’s security detail who responded.
Investigators said Hodgkinson had obtained his rifle and handgun from licensed firearms dealers, and Capitol Police said they had “no evidence to suggest that the purchases were not lawful.”
The FBI said it was investigating the shooter’s “activities and social media impressions” in the months leading up to the attack. Authorities also were going over a cellphone, computer and camera taken from Hodgkinson’s white van, which was parked near the ballfield. Hodgkinson, a Belleville, Illinois, home inspector, had been living out of his van near the park.
So far, investigators have not linked Hodgkinson to any radical groups, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.
Scalise was among five people wounded when the shooter sprayed rifle fire at congressional Republicans practicing for the game.
Also hurt but released from hospitals were two Capitol Police officers, David Bailey and Crystal Griner, and House GOP aide Zack Barth. Lobbyist Matt Mika was shot multiple times and critically injured and remained hospitalized.
Bailey received a hero’s welcome from a record crowd of nearly 25,000 at Thursday’s game when he threw out the first pitch, and Barth also showed up for the game, walking with crutches. On Friday, Bailey was spotted back in the Capitol building, on crutches and out of uniform, accepting congratulations from fellow officers. He declined to speak with a reporter.
The shooting prompted talk of improving security for lawmakers, most of whom are unaccompanied by officers in their normal day-to-day pursuits. Some have suggested using federal money to provide security cameras in their offices, while others spoke of a need for protection when groups of them appear in public.