Lawmakers push AG Garland: Shooting at 2017 congressional baseball practice was domestic terrorism

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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday vowed House lawmakers he will look into why the FBI deemed the 2017 shooting that nearly killed Rep. Steve Scalise as “suicide by cop,” instead of domestic terrorism.

“I promise I will raise the issue with the FBI,” Mr. Garland told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee while testifying about the Justice Department’s fiscal year 2022 budget request.

The shooting, which targeted Republicans practicing in Alexandria, Virginia, for the annual congressional baseball game, was carried out by a lone gunman who had made numerous social media posts backing far-left causes and the presidential bid of Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent.

The Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Alexandria prosecutors all deemed the attack as a domestic violent extremism event targeting Republican members of Congress.

The FBI, however, privately determined the attack was “suicide by cop.” The designation was not made public until a congressional hearing last month.

Republicans have fumed over that determination, saying it downplays the shooter’s apparent political motivation. They say the incident should be labeled as domestic terrorism.

“This is clearly one of the cases where I think it needs to be reclassified because I think the evidence is very clear and many members of Congress could have lost their lives,” Rep. Robert Aderholt, Alabama Republican, said at the hearing Tuesday. “It is a very important issue for all members of Congress, whether Democrat or Republican.”

“He took defensive measures to shield himself from bullets and yet it was still suicide by cop,” Mr. Aderholt continued.

The incident occurred in June 2017 when James Hodgkinson, 66, of Illinois, opened fire at a Virginia baseball field where the Republican congressional baseball team was practicing.
Hodgkinson was killed in a subsequent shootout with Capitol Police. Five others, including Mr. Scalise, Louisiana Republican, were injured.

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, an Ohio Republican who served as an Army surgeon during the Iraq war, applied first aid and worked to stop Mr. Scalise’s leg from bleeding.

During a House Intelligence Committee hearing last month Mr. Wenstrup grilled the FBI Director about the “suicide by cop” designation.

He told Mr. Wray, who was not in charge of the FBI at the time of the attack, that the designation was inaccurate and undermined the heroism of the survivors.

“Director, you want suicide by cop, you just pull a gun on a cop,” Mr. Wenstrup said at the hearing. “It doesn’t take 136 rounds. It takes one bullet.”

Mr. Wray did not respond to Mr. Wenstrup’s comments, other than to say he was not running the bureau at the time. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was in charge of the bureau at the time of the incident.

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