U.S. President Donald Trump said Congressman Steve Scalise is "in some trouble" as he fights to recover from a gunshot wound sustained Wednesday in a surprise attack on Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside Washington.
"He's a great fighter and he's going to be OK, we hope," the president said Thursday at the White House just hours after visiting Scalise at a Washington hospital.
Scalise remains in critical condition. He has had three surgeries so far. The hospital said in a statement Wednesday that Scalise "will require additional operations."
As Majority Whip, Scalise is the third highest ranking congressman in the House of Representatives. He was wounded when an attacker armed with a rifle and a handgun fired on Republican lawmakers who were preparing for Thursday's annual charity game against a team of Democrats.
The gunman, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, was wounded by Capitol Police and later died.
Besides Scalise, the shooter also wounded Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner, a congressional aide and a lobbyist.
Hodgkinson's weapons, a 9-millimeter handgun and a 7.62 caliber rifle, were recovered at the scene, according to a joint statement issued Thursday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and several state and local law enforcement agencies. The statement said the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives determined Hodgkinson bought the guns from federally licensed dealers.
"We currently have no evidence to suggest that the purchases were not lawful," the statement said.
At her weekly news conference, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said she was “personally heartbroken” over Scalise’s injuries. She later criticized “sanctimonious” Republicans, including some in Congress, who have suggested that heated rhetoric from the political left may be partially responsible for the attack.
Pelosi also expressed support for increasing the budget for the Capital Police, which protects members of Congress, in the wake of the shooting.
Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited MedStar Washington Hospital Center late Wednesday to see Scalise and his family, and to meet with Griner and her wife.
Vice President Mike Pence visited Scalise early Thursday.
The U.S. House of Representatives resumed normal business activities Thursday after sharply curtailing them following the shootings. Republican Congressman Gregg Harper gaveled in the session and Republican Congressman Glenn Thompson delivered the first morning speech, as some 30 spectators watched from the visitors’ galleries.
Game to proceed
The U.S. Congressional Baseball Game is scheduled to be played as planned Thursday, despite the attack. The game is a long-standing summer tradition in Washington, with teams of Republican and Democratic lawmakers competing on the ballfield, even in present times, when fractious political debates are the norm.
Trump will not attend the charity game due to the lack of time to arrange security.
Motive still unclear
Authorities said Wednesday there was not yet a clear motive for the shooting, as the FBI investigated Hodgkinson's associations and social media postings.
Congressman Jeff Duncan told police Wednesday that Hodgkinson approached him in the parking lot before the shooting and asked him if the men practicing were Republicans or Democrats.
Some of Hodgkinson's social media posts bitterly lashed out at Trump. Hodgkinson also was a volunteer with Senator Bernie Sanders' Democratic presidential campaign.
Sanders said he is "sickened" by the shooting and that "violence of any kind is unacceptable."
In Photos: Congressional Baseball Game Shooting
There were about 20 congressmen on the field Wednesday at the time of the attack. They hit the ground or ducked behind trees and shelters when Hodgkinson opened fire, apparently without warning. As many as 20 shots were fired.
There was extra security at the practice because of Scalise's high position in the Republican Party. He is accompanied by Capitol Police at all times.
Afterward, the lawmakers praised Capitol Police and Alexandria Police, saying that without their actions the outcome could have been far worse.
Republican Congressman Mo Brooks told CNN the security detail “exhibited great, great courage.”
Republican Brad Wenstrup, who was a combat surgeon in Iraq, treated some of the wounded before they were taken to the hospital.
Republican Joe Barton of Texas, whose 10-year-old son witnessed the shooting, lamented a political climate in which he said lawmakers "are not looked at as people anymore." He cited shouting and insults thrown at lawmakers during town-hall meetings with citizens.
Both said it should not take an incident like Wednesday's shooting to bring political adversaries together.