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Trump Suspends Anti-D.C. ‘Drain the Swamp’ Talk, Calls for Unity After Shooting at Congressional GOP Baseball Practice

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NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty

President Donald Trump addressed the nation on Wednesday after a shooting in Virginia in which House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise and members of the congressional police force were shot.

In a statement delivered from the Diplomatic Room in the White House, the president offered his full support to Scalise and his family, and praised the “heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault.”

“Melania and I are grateful for their heroism and praying for the swift recovery of all victims,” Trump said. “Congressman Scalise is a friend, and a very good friend. He’s a patriot and a fighter. He will recover from this assault.”

“And Steve, I want you to know you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you but of an entire nation and frankly the entire world,” the president continued. “America is praying for you and praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting. I spoke with Steve’s wife, Jennifer, and I pledged to her our full and absolute support — anything she needs. We’re with her and with the entire Scalise family.”

Trump also revealed that the gunman, who had been identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, was killed from injuries he sustained during the shooting.

“Authorities are continuing to investigate the crime and the assailant has now died from his injuries,” Trump said. “The FBI is leading the investigation and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available. Congressman Steve Scalise, a member of House leadership, was shot and badly wounded and is now in stable condition at the hospital along with two very courageous Capitol Police offiers. At least two others were also wounded.”

Trump, who whipped up anti-Washington fervor with his “drain the swamp” campaign talk last year, sounded a markedly different note on Wednesday.

“Everyone on that field is a public servant – our courageous police, our congressional aides who work so tirelessly behind the scenes with enormous devotion and our dedicated Members of Congress who represent our people,” he said. “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.”

“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 and when we work
together for the common good. Please take a moment today to cherish those you love and always remember those who serve and keep us safe.”

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Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was shot in the hip and hospitalized after a gunman opened fire early Wednesday on a group of GOP lawmakers and aides practicing for a charity baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia. Scalise is expected to survive after Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and another congressman rushed to his aide and worked to staunch the bleeding, according to Flake and other lawmakers who witnessed the scene.

Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown said in a press conference earlier that five people, including the gunman, were injured and had been taken to local hospitals. Two Capitol Hill police agents were among those shot, according to Rep. Mo Brooks, who told CNN he was at the scene when the shooting took place.

One of Rep. Roger Williams’ aides, Zack Barth, was also injured in the attack and was being treated at a local hospital in the wake of the shooting, Williams announced in a statement. Barth is expected to make a full recovery.

Rep. Ron DeSantis told ABC that a man he believes may have been the gunman asked him whether the players on the field were Democrats or Republicans before he started shooting.

The president, 71, first spoke out about the shooting in a White House statement that said: “The Vice President and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected.”

He followed up with a tweet praising Scalise as “a true friend and patriot.”

Trump comes to the issue of gun violence with some troubling baggage. During his 2016 campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton, he raised more than once the specter of her assassination. In one speech, Trump talked about “the Second Amendment people” taking matters into their own hands if she were elected — a coy line that Bernice A. King, daughter of the assassinated Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. denounced at the time as “distasteful, disturbing, dangerous.”

In another instance last year, Trump called for Clinton’s Secret Service protectors to “disarm immediately” — adding, “Let’s see what happens to her.”

Furthermore, his presidential campaign was whole-heartedly endorsed by the NRA, an organization which Trump has repeatedly championed.

Trump’s daughter and assistant to the president Ivanka Trump also spoke out about the shooting during a workforce development round table on Wednesday afternoon that was held at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

“I’d like to start by echoing my father’s statement earlier and offering our thoughts and prayers to Congressman Scalise and all of the victims in today’s tragic events,” she said, according to a pool report. “We are grateful for their service and their dedication to this country.”

“My father said this morning that it’s time likes these that we must all work together for our country,” she added, saying that the group planned to do “just that.”