WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump decried the shooting of a top House Republican on Wednesday as a “very, very brutal assault” and called for all Americans to set aside differences and pray for the recovery of the victims.
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 in times like these that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because above all they love our country,” said 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.”
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot by a rifle-wielding gunman Wednesday morning at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington. Officials said several other people, including members of Scalise’s security team, were also wounded.
A government official identified the shooter as an Illinois man named James. T. Hodgkinson. The official was not authorized to discuss an investigation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Trump praised 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 mobilized to the softball field where the Republican baseball team was practicing ahead of Thursday night’s charity game against a Democratic team.
“Our brave Capitol police perform a challenging job with incredible skill,” Trump said. Their sacrifice makes democracy possible.”
The brief address was a significant moment for 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, Trump made no mention of gun regulations.
The White House said Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were both notified of the shooting in Alexandria. The president has spoken to 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.