Monday 25 September 2017

Donald Trump: Steve Scalise 'in some trouble' amid fight for life after shooting

FBI agents work in the parking lot of the YMCA next to the baseball field at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria (AP)
FBI agents work in the parking lot of the YMCA next to the baseball field at Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria (AP)

Steve Scalise faces a "much more difficult" struggle to recover from his gunshot wound than first thought, US president Donald Trump has said.

The Republican House Whip is in critical condition and undergoing repeated surgery as his colleagues lurched back to business in a sombre mood.

Mr Scalise, 51, is at Medstar Washington Hospital Centre with a rifle wound in his left hip that has shattered bones, damaged organs and caused severe bleeding. He underwent his third surgery on Thursday.

"He's in some trouble," said Mr Trump, who visited late on Wednesday. "He's going to be OK. We hope."

Law enforcement has tracked the path of the gunman who shot him at a suburban Virginia park during a practice for an annual Republicans-Democrats baseball game.

Investigators studying Wednesday's attack said gunman James Hodgkinson obtained his rifle and handgun from licensed firearms dealers.

Capitol Police said they had "no evidence to suggest that the purchases were not lawful".

The gunman, from Belleville, Illinois, was a home inspector who had been living out of his van near the park. He had a social media page filled with criticism of Republicans and the Trump administration.

He died after officers in Mr Scalise's security detail fired back at him. The Congressman is among five people wounded in the incident.

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. He remains in hospital.

The FBI said it was investigating the gunman's "activities and social media impressions in the months leading up to yesterday's incident".

Authorities are also going over a mobile phone, computer and camera taken from Hodgkinson's white van.

Colleagues who visited Mr Scalise were generally upbeat but spoke more in terms of hope than the confident predictions in the immediate aftermath of the shooting.

Democrat Cedric Richmond, a fellow Louisiana congressman, said with many others that Mr Scalise is a fighter. "I'm prayerful he will pull through and I hope he does," he said.

Mr Richmond, who plays for the Democratic team, said he had visited the hospital twice and planned to go again before Thursday night's game at Nationals Park.

Following a day that saw most congressional business cancelled, the Capitol's usual partisan combativeness was less pointed and warm words were exchanged between politicians with starkly opposing philosophies.

"There is so much you do that I disagree with," House Financial Services Committee chairman Jeb Hensarling, a staunch conservative, told his panel's top Democrat, unwavering liberal representative Maxine Waters.

"But you have long since earned my respect and you deserve to be heard, and you are an honorable individual."

Addressing Mr Scalise, republican John Lewis said: "You are not alone. ... We love you."

He led a House floor Democratic sit-in last year when Republicans refused to consider gun control legislation.

Members of both parties said they needed to soften rhetorical attacks, if only to set a better example for a public that seems increasingly divided into hostile political camps.

Underscoring the day's mood, Reverend Patrick Conroy, the House chaplain, opened the day by seeking divine forgiveness "when we seem to forget that words matter and can become seeds that will bring bitter harvest".

But finger-pointing lingered. Republican Steve King said Democrats would be reminded of "positions they've taken in the past that are not consistent with their voice for bipartisanship today".

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi recounted candidate Mr Trump's comments prodding supporters to pummel demonstrators at rallies and said Republicans were being "sanctimonious".

The shooting prompted talk of improving security for politicians, most of whom are unaccompanied by officers in their normal day-to-day pursuits.

Some have suggested using federal funds to provide security cameras in their offices, while others spoke of a need for protection when groups of them appear in public.

AP

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