Friday 18 August 2017

Trump calls for unity after shooting of top congressman

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise

Jonathan Lemire

President Donald Trump has decried the shooting of a top House Republican as a "very, very brutal assault" and called for all Americans to set aside differences and pray for the recovery of the victims.

Mr Trump said that "many lives would have been lost without the heroic action" of the Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman.

"We may have our differences but we do well in times like these (to remember) that everyone who serves in our nation's capital is here because above all they love our country," said Mr Trump, speaking from the White House's Diplomatic Room.

"We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace and that we are strongest when we are unified."

Representative Steve Scalise, of Louisiana, was shot by a rifle-wielding gunman at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington.

Officials said several other people, including members of Mr Scalise's security team, were also wounded.

A vehicle window is shattered as police secure the scene where shots were fired
A vehicle window is shattered as police secure the scene where shots were fired

A government official identified the shooter as an Illinois man named James T Hodgkinson.

Read More: Trump says Louisiana congressman - a 'true friend and patriot' - will survive shooting

Mr Trump praised Mr Scalise as "a very good friend" and "a patriot", telling him that "you have not just the prayers of the entire city behind you, but the entire nation and frankly the entire world".

He repeatedly praised the Capitol Police officers and first responders who quickly mobilised to the softball field where the Republican baseball team was practising ahead of Thursday night's charity game against a Democratic team.

"Our brave Capitol Police perform a challenging job with incredible skill," Mr Trump said.

"Their sacrifice makes democracy possible."

The brief address was a significant moment for Mr Trump.

It was the first time that he assumed the presidential responsibility of addressing the nation after a shooting.

In a break from many of President Barack Obama's speeches after a shooting, Mr Trump made no mention of gun regulations.

The White House said Mr Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both notified of the shooting in Alexandria.

The president has spoken to Mr Scalise's wife and chief of staff, as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the chief of the Capitol Police.

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