Show: MTP DAILY Date: June 14, 2017 Guest: Pete Williams, Kasie Hunt, Helene Cooper, David French, Ruth Marcus, Martha McSally, Jim Himes
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: Rough day. Rough day for all of us. Thanks, Nicolle.
If it`s Wednesday, this is a day many of us feared would happen.
Good evening, I`m Chuck Todd here in Chicago and welcome to MTP DAILY.
This hour, law enforcement and officials at the FBI will be briefing reporters on the latest developments in the Congressional shooting today. And we will take you to that briefing the minute it begins.
But, folks, we`ve all been terrified of a day like this. And for those of us living here in Washington, there`s been a fear that a day like this was inevitable, sadly. We`ve been in a tinder box of constantly escalating rhetoric for far too long now.
And, today, things did turn violent. Sadly, there will be a temptation, by some, to exploit today`s tragedy for partisan gain. It`s the last thing this country needs. But it`s what this country could get if we`re not careful and if our leaders don`t respond well.
Earlier today, a gunman opened fire during a Republican Congressional baseball practice at a park in Alexandria, Virginia, just a few miles from Washington proper. The third most powerful House Republican, Steve Scalise, was shot and he underwent immediate surgery. He still remains in critical condition.
A lobbyist and a Congressional staffer were also among the injured, along with two Capitol Hill police officers who killed the gunman in a shootout and saved -- likely saved a bunch of lives.
By all accounts, it was a terrifying and horrific early morning scene.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: Well, we were taking batting practice and shagging balls in the infield and a gunshot went off.
REP. RODNEY DAVIS (R), ILLINOIS: And the next thing I heard was, run, he`s got a gun.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: In the field, I see Representative Scalise is shot but moving. And he`s trying to drag himself through the dirt out into the outfield.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: There`s a volley of fire, and I just remember seeing sand kind of be -- gravel being kicked up by a couple of bullets, I guess. And I`m thinking that this is -- this is very serious. And we -- a lot of us ran to the dugout to take cover.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: Scalise`s security detail and Capitol Hill police immediately began return fire.
REP. JEFF DUNCAN (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I actually left right before the shooting happened. And had an interaction with who I believe was the shooter, based on the profile that I saw on T.V. Someone in the parking lot who asked me if the team practicing was a Democrat or Republican team. I told him they were Republicans. He said, OK, thanks. Turned around. I got in the car and left. Found out that my Republican colleagues were targeted by an active shooter today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That gunman has been identified as James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old from Illinois. He has a history of arrests and was charged in 2006 with battery.
As you heard in that clip, Congressman Duncan says the shooter asked if the players on the field were Republicans or Democrats before opening fire.
Hodgkinson apparently had strong political views. A fierce critic of the Republican Party and a -- basically, a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders today took to the Senate floor to tell us more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT: I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice this morning is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: So, as that was dropped into this tinderbox, leaders from both parties today pleaded for some unity.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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 are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
Let`s just slow down and reflect, to think about how we`re all being tested right now. Because we are being tested right now. I ask each of you to join me to resolve to come together.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: To my colleagues, you will hear me say something you have never heard me say before. I identify myself with the remarks of the speaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But, folks, the fear is, is it too little too late? Partisans from both sides, right now, are trying to make the shooting a referendum on the other party`s viciousness.
What does that say about party leadership? Some supporters of Democrats trying to pin this on President Trump or the Republican Party stance on gun rights. And some Republicans are trying to blame it on hostility on the left.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[17:05:10] NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, GEORGIA: We`ve had an increasing intensity of hostility on the left. Look, I talk to college students regularly who say to me, if they openly are for Trump, they get threatened. You`ve had a series of things which send signals that tell people that it`s OK to hate Trump. It`s OK to think of Trump in violent terms. It`s OK to consider assassinating Trump. And then, we have the -- and then, suddenly, we`re supposed to rise above it. Until the next time?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Folks, some will want to blame the left or the right or us in the media. But here`s who it seems too many folks don`t want to blame, themselves. We are all to blame. This toxic stew that passes for political discourse seems beyond repair in the current moment.
Just look at social media. For too long, our collective politics has demonized the other side for caustic behavior, while rationalizing that same behavior when it comes from someone who shares their politics. Maybe we ought to borrow another phrase when we`re asked to do, when you see something, say something. And for political leaders, when you see caustic behavior, no matter if that person agrees with you, why don`t you say something to them?
I`m joined now by NBC correspondent, Pete Williams. Pete, let`s go through what we know right now. I guess, how long was this shooter planning this attack? Because all of the anecdotal that`s coming out, this seemed not only was it planned today but maybe he was planning it for some time.
PETE WILLIAMS, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: I don`t know the answer to that because the federal authorities tell me they don`t know the answer to that.
Let`s go back on a couple of points, Chuck, that have been confusing all day long. There were four people shot today. And given the number of rounds that were apparently expended, based on eyewitnesses, that`s quite a remarkable thing. The Congressman, Steve Scalise; one of his staffer -- another Congressional staffer, a staffer from another Congressman, a staffer named Zach Barth; a lobbyist named Matt Mika; and a U.S. Capitol police officer.
Two other people were -- and then, of course, the gunman, himself, was shot and killed. A second Congressman, Representative Roger Williams of Texas, injured a leg and an ankle, and another Capitol police officer also was injured but not shot. So, that`s the first thing.
Secondly, the gunman, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, Belleville, Illinois. A home inspector who let his professional license lapse last fall. He`d been a prolific writer of letters to the local paper. Always railing about Republicans.
His Facebook postings are filled with harsh criticisms of Republicans. He was said to be bitterly upset about the election of Trump. He had campaigned for Bernie Sanders last year and his relatives say that he was very upset about the Trump election.
But why he came here, and precisely when, is still unknown. We`ve talked to many witnesses who say that he`s been hanging around that area. He was often at a YMCA that`s directly across the street from the ballpark where today`s shooting took place. He had been at other local businesses nearby.
One question was, was he homeless? Did he have some place to live? They`re trying to run that down now. No obvious answer to that question right now. Was he living out of his car? We just don`t know the answer to that.
And back to your question, why did he come here? Did he come here intending to do something like this? All the people who have talked to him, that have encountered him, say he was very pleasant. He was curious. He was asking the former mayor, where can I get a job? What could I do? What are good places to eat?
And everyone who`s come in contact with him, describes him that way, not as a hot head. The Congressman from his district in Illinois said he was a frequent pen pal. Somebody who wrote and called a lot, at least 10 times. But was never threatening just very persistent in his views.
So, I think the simple answer to your question is, they don`t know yet.
TODD: Let`s talk big picture here. Look, the Capitol police is primarily responsible for security when it comes to members of Congress. And I -- and I know leadership, they get details. Others don`t.
The fact of the matter is, members of Congress deal with these threats on a daily basis. Who handles it? Who do they report to? Is it an FBI that runs it down? Is it Capitol police that runs these threats down? How is that handled and is it done in a -- in a way that`s comforting to these members of Congress?
WILLIAMS: Number one, just to be clear, we don`t know of any threats before this shooting happened today.
TODD: Fair enough. On this, yes.
WILLIAMS: So, in terms of threats made to members of Congress, sometimes the U.S. Capitol police investigate them. Sometimes the FBI. There`s no clear answer to that.
I`ve seen cases in the past -- and it depends. You know, members of Congress, I used to work as a Congressional staffer in both the House and Senate. It`s just the nature of the job. You get goofy phone calls from people and you have to make a decision about whether they`re serious or not.
[17:10:11] But sometimes it`s the feds. Sometimes the Capitol police, Chuck.
TODD: All right, Pete Williams, I`m going to let you go there. Pete, thanks very much.
Now, let me go to the political side of things. Bring our Capitol Hill Correspondent in, Kasie Hunt. So, Kasie, we saw -- you`ve been running around the Hill. We saw a lot of unity today. Just give me a sense -- I mean, I`ve seen -- there`s been -- it`s been very emotional, it seems, on Capitol Hill today, in a way that we haven`t seen in some time. Paint a picture.
KASIE HUNT, CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: That`s true, without a doubt, Chuck. It has been a very emotional day. And I think it`s been very clear that these members are really shaken up. I`ve seen -- I`ve watched members from different parties hug each other, seemingly spontaneously, in the hallways. I had one or two people hug me. You know, especially in the early hours of this when there was not a lot of information known about this.
And you`ve seen many of these members get very visibly emotional. I`ve seen at least three of the members who were at this game doing interviews, either with me or with other reporters, grow visibly emotional, tearing up.
Congressman Joe Barton, just now in a press conference, talking about his son, Jack, who essentially grew up around these members of Congress. He was born when Barton was the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. And he talked about how he takes him out on the floor and he talks to members from both sides of the aisle and they`re all excited that he`s there.
And that, I think, is the spirit that is, kind of, imbuing the Capitol today. There was a question at the press conference about whether or not this spirit might last. And Congressman Barton said he absolutely thought that this was something that had shaken people enough to potentially, permanently change the way relationships are here.
But, at the same time, he and his Democratic colleague, the other coach on the Democratic side, said, look, there`s a lot of fundamental changes. Technology makes that a whole lot harder -- Chuck.
TODD: In the closed-door meeting with all House members, we heard that lots of issues about the security question have come up. Whether it`s where district offices are located, you know, should they be in federal buildings, courthouses perhaps? Do members need more protection out -- when they leave the Capitol and things like this.
Obviously, this is a resource question. What`s been that conversation? Is there -- has this hit critical mass where there is a majority movement here to do something?
HUNT: Well, Chuck, I think that, right now, it`s not clear exactly what the answer to that might be. I think, historically, members have felt less safe in their districts because they`re not in a building that -- you know, we`re surrounded every day by police officers on every corner of these buildings.
And I think part of what happened today is that the confidence they were safe in Washington has been shattered a little bit. And that`s different from what they`re used to dealing with.
But I do think there are a few things that are under discussion, you`re right. That federal buildings is one of them. Because if you put the office there, it`s still accessible to the public. But that security is built in so anyone that`s coming into the office has to, say, pass through a metal detector or something similar to that.
There`s also -- and I`ve talked to one member about this so far. But it was -- there is, apparently, a prohibition in the House rules on using money from your office budget to pay for security for yourself, for your staff or for your family. And I think that`s something that members have started to talk about that maybe that prohibition should be lifted.
I think, of course, the concern is that that would cost additional money. Maybe spending that money is not seen as politically tenable. And that was one of the other complaints we heard in that press conference, that all of these things that used to bring people together are not allowed. This might be something where constituents would say, hey, why am I spending all this money just, you know, to protect his family?
But I think that`s something some members would like to see. And I do think they are actually as worried about their family members or if not more so than they are about themselves, in many cases. Because I`ve talked to some members who`ve had, you know, threats on their Facebook pages against members of their family or people showing up at their houses.
TODD: No, that`s always to fare, I think these guys are -- and gals are all worried about probably their family almost as much as themselves.
Anyway. Kasie Hunt on Capitol Hill. Kasie, thanks very much.
Let me bring in tonight`s panel. Helene Cooper is Pentagon correspondent for "The New York Times." She lives blocks from today`s incident. David French is a senior writer at "National Review." He also served in Iraq. And Ruth Marcus is deputy editorial page editor at "The Washington Post."
Helene, let me start with you. You`re geographically located -- just tell me your first thoughts when you heard and then, sort of, digest today and, sort of, what do you think the fallout of this is going to be on our politics now or at least our discourse?
HELENE COOPER, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I woke up this morning to the police sirens. But, you know, we hear police sirens all the time, so I didn`t really pay much attention to that.
[17:15:00] But then, when I saw -- started seeing the traffic on my cell phone and on my laptop about a shooting in Del Ray, I was -- I was pretty shocked. Because, you know, it`s so -- such a cliche. You know, nothing ever happens in this neighborhood.
COOPER: But this really is very much a very -- that`s what`s -- what I think is kind of interesting about this is this is a very Democratic neighborhood. It`s probably one of the bluest places in Virginia.
And yet, for some reason, the Republicans -- the Republican Congressional softball team has been practicing at that Eugene Simpson field for 10 years now and they`re always -- they`re always out there in their red shirts with Republican written right across. And I thought that was -- that was pretty interesting when one of my neighbors pointed that out to me this morning.
I went down there, of course, with a lot of the other reporters. And it`s a very, kind of, out-of-body experience to be right, you know, in front of your normal coffee shop, in front of my own YMCA, and seeing it as a -- as a crime scene.
I think it`s been really interesting seeing how Washington has, sort of, appeared, at least today, to come together on this. Whether that lasts or not, I think -- I guess I`m a little cynical and, kind of, skeptical as to how long this unity is going to last.
But they`re talking, right now, about having a unity run down Mt. Vernon Avenue this evening at 6:30 from the community school all the way to Lena`s Italian Restaurant. So, I`m going to see if I can check that out later today.
It`s been a -- it`s kind of a weird thing, though. Because, in Washington, we`re used to writing about this from a distance.
TODD: Right. Yes, it`s -- it is a much of a -- look, this is a great day to have you, David French, here because you`re not in Washington. You don`t live here, live in D.C.
Look, I made the case that this -- I viewed this as an inevitable, unfortunately, something like this. That we were going to see the caustic political environment turn -- potentially turn violent. Did you -- do you share that view? Did you share that view?
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR WRITER, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Not only -- I mean, I would say you`re understating it a little bit in calling it inevitable. I think the caustic political environment had already turned violent. And now, it`s just extended straight into the greater Washington, D.C. area.
I mean, look, there`s no doubt that we`re in a political environment right now where some of the rhetoric is the kind of rhetoric that inspires. I`m not going to say incites because those are two different words with two different meanings.
FRENCH: That inspires people to act out violently. When you`re talking about things like -- phrases like civil war. When you`re talking about that policies kill people. You know, these things can cause some people to hear the words and apply them, often quite literally.
And that`s one of the things that I think is happening in our nation. And we`ve seen it elsewhere. We just hadn`t seen it hit official Washington in the way that it has. And this should be an alarm bell in the night towards people. This should be an alarm bell, not to restrict free speech --
FRENCH: -- in any way, shape, or form, but an alarm bell to exercise a degree of responsibility and understanding of the humanity of your opponent as another person created in the image of god who enjoys the blessings of American liberty and is entitled to blessings of American liberty every bit as much as my side is, as my tribe is.
TODD: Look, that`s well put. You know, Mo Brooks, today, who was -- applied it -- used his belt to apply a tourniquet to Steve Scalise. And we may, in fact, find out that he ended up saving his life, at some point.
I thought he put out a fascinating statement. And, Ruth, I want to get your response to it. He writes this, talking about all the different -- all the different parts, ways people are blaming left and right of what we have here. And he writes, the second amendment is a right to bear arms, is to ensure that we always have a republic.
And as with any Constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people. And what we saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those rights properly.
But we`re not going to get rid of freedom of speech because some people say some really ugly things that hurt other people`s feelings. We`re not going to get rid of the fourth amendment, search and seizure rights, because it allows some criminals to go free who should be behind bars.
I thought it was an important point there, Ruth, that it`s, sort of, like, we`re all going to jump the gun and look for a quick cure here when, really, it`s about political leadership and common sense.
RUTH MARCUS, DEPUTY EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think there`s a lot of gun jumping and maybe gun jumping isn`t the best phrase to use on a terrible day like this in people`s reactions to this.
I guess I look at it and I think that insanity knows no political ideology. And you are going to have crazy people on the left and crazy people on the right who are going to do terrible things. And David is right, they may be revved up by rhetoric that is not intended to or even -- you know, you can`t even imagine it would have those consequences when you say it.
[17:20:10] But we should all, I think, step back for a minute. And instead of going right directly to our usual corners about, really, kind of, tired arguments about second amendment and the best, you know, a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun on one side. And talking about the laxness of gun control laws on the other side. Can`t we just pause for a minute on all of that? Number one.
And, I guess, number two. There`s been a lot of talk, on social media and elsewhere today, about the consequences of elevated and intensified rhetoric on the left leading to this. And you could easily imagine, we had it, of course, in the Charleston shooting, terrible church shooting. Rhetoric on the other --
MARCUS: -- side that`s blamed for other things. I think we just need to just, kind of, pause for a moment. I`m a little bit with Helene, in terms of the capacity to come together for very long.
MARCUS: But at least let`s stay out of our usual corners for a little bit.
TODD: Well, it`s happened in Washington. It`s not happened in the virtual space.
You guys are sticking around with me. I appreciate that. Helene, David and Ruth, I want to pause here.
Coming up, I`m going to speak with two members of Congress, both sides of the aisle. They`re going to appear together on the political environment that has sparked this.
And we`re awaiting an update from authorities on today`s shooting in Alexandria that, of course, has left Congressman Steve Scalise and four others injured. We`re going to bring you that live when it happens.
TODD: Welcome back.
It`s not every day that you`ll see two members of Congress from two different parties doing an interview together, but today is one of those days. Joining me now are Democratic Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut and Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally of Arizona. Two states that, sadly, are also familiar with high-profile shooting incidents.
Congressman and Congresswoman, thank you for coming on to -- and thank you for coming on together. We asked for this and you guys easily wanted to do this. So, thank you.
REP. MARTHA MCSALLY (R), ARIZONA: Absolutely.
REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Congresswoman, McSally, I know this is -- the experience that Arizona went through with Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. So, this hits home for a lot of folks in Arizona as well. Your thoughts today?
MCSALLY: It does, Chuck. My community knows all too well what it`s like to go through acts of violence like this against public officials and their staff, while they`re engaging in listening to their constituents or engaging in their work and other activities.
And before we walked into our briefing, we walked by the Gabe Zimmerman room, which is named after the first Congressional staffer killed in the line of duty. So, we know all too well what it`s like to go through something like this. And now is an opportunity, just like Tucson did in 2011, to show unity like we`ve not seen before.
[17:25:02] TODD: Congressman Himes, I believe you were on the job all of nine days when Congresswoman Giffords was shot when that -- and we lost Gabe Zimmerman. That was your introduction to being a member of Congress. Your reaction today?
HIMES: Well, I was actually elected two years before that. You may be thinking of my colleague, Elizabeth Estes, who was elected.
TODD: My apologies.
HIMES: Yes. No, but I`ll tell you what, it didn`t matter whether that was your first couple of days in Congress or who you were or where you were. Of course, the massacre of 26 young people and their teachers just continues to resonate in Connecticut, just the sheer horror of that act continues to resonate, and not just in Connecticut but in this building.
TODD: This -- look, there`s been a lot of calls for unity today. And you guys are appearing together today, for instance.
But, Congressman Himes, I`m going to start with you. That spirit of unity was there for a short period of time. We had the -- where everybody didn`t sit as a party for the State of the Union. They -- everybody sat next to a member from the other party.
This is yet another attack on the institution where it should be Americans were attacked, not a Republican, not a Democrat. How do you keep that spirit of civility alive?
HIMES: Yes, it`s a great question, Chuck. And one of the more moving moments this morning when the Congress came together for what was billed as a security briefing, but really turned into a conversation about unity and about tone.
Most of us walked out of that room realizing that, you know, if unity means we`re always going to agree on things, we`re not going to achieve that and we probably shouldn`t achieve that. It`s good that Martha has a different way of looking at things than I do. And the debate that ensues is good.
But I think it was a great reminder for us all that the tone really matters. And the word, tone, was used a lot this morning. And sometimes, we feel like we`re, sort of, victims of the tone. We have town hall meetings and people shout. And this morning was a real reminder that we`re actually -- as leaders, we are responsible for trying to set as civil and as constructive a tone as we can.
TODD: Glad to hear you say that. I think it`s on all of us that are involved in public discourse.
Congresswoman McSally, I know that you`ve got a security -- it was billed as a security briefing. And it`s my understanding many members of Congress expressed concern that if you`re not in leadership and you`re not in Washington at the Capitol, you don`t have a lot of security. How concerned are you?
MCSALLY: We don`t. And about a month ago, a man was arrested for multiple messages and indicted on three counts of death threats against me. And we get asked this question all the time.
Obviously, we don`t need to take unnecessary risk. But I think the best thing that we can do right now is continue to do our job, continue to be accessible, continue to lead and show that we`re willing to listen and engage and be out and about in our community.
We cannot be hiding in a bunker. I flew in combat. And just because I knew there were threats out there, didn`t mean I stopped doing my mission.
My mission now is to represent. And we can lean on that front. Again, not by taking unnecessary risks but we can`t live in fear. The best thing we can do is go to the Congressional baseball game tomorrow night and show that we are not going to be stopped. And then, we`re going to continue in our business of having sincerely held beliefs and dialogues and debates. But we can disagree without being disagreeable.
I -- again, I served in the military. There`s real enemies out there that are trying to kill us and our way of life. They are not our neighbors. They are not our colleagues. So, we have to come and unify in a way that this, I think, crisis equals an opportunity for us.
TODD: Congresswoman, I want to follow up on something you said. You said this is a wake-up call. A wake-up call for what? Is it on tone and civility?
MCSALLY: I really do think so. I think the temperature is very hot right now. And, like, I have not seen in my lifetime. We have people filled with, you know, sincerely held beliefs that are now turning into attacks and demonizing and vitriol and hatred.
And, again, I think we can disagree and have some, you know, sincere debates on policy issues and listen to one another. And that`s throughout the country here but also in our communities. And, you know, I know neighbors who are mad at each other and family members over politics. Knock it off, right?
There are things that unite us that are far greater than the things that divide us. And, you know, like a frog in the boiling water, you know, if you keep turning this up one degree at a time, threats of violence and acts of violence are not too far a leap.
And so, I think it`s on all of us, really, to look into our hearts and see what can we do in order to tone it down. Continue to have rigorous debates but not be feeding into any, sort of, environment that`s toxic and can incite or encourage people who are maybe not stable to be taking acts of violence.
TODD: Well, sadly, social media, I think, has conditioned us to accept hyperbole as fact too often in some of this rhetoric.
Congressman Himes, let me ask you about some specifics here. We heard a few ideas being thrown out, as far as to at least improve some security. The idea of your district offices always being -- trying to locate them in federal buildings or in courthouses. And the federal courthouses, you know, if that`s possible, because there`s an added layer of security.
Is that something that, formally, you`d like to see the House take up?
HIMES: I think there were a bunch of constructive suggestions made this morning by people on both sides of the aisle and that was one of them. The actual comment made was how can it possibly be true that given the budgets that we are given annually to run our offices that we can`t afford to go into a federal building where there is that added security. That`s obviously pretty crazy on the face of it.
But, you know, there`s also moments where we come together in big groups, where oftentimes the capitol police will be there to help, but we probably ought to be more conscious of that. I mean, we saw that this morning. It was just a coincidence that Steve Scalise, a leader who has a personal security detail, happened to be on the team. Had he not been on the team and there not been an unbelievably well-trained and brave detail there, we would have had a much worse strategy. So, there`s a lot to think about in this regard.
TODD: Congressman Martha McSally, Congressman Jim Himes, Democrat from Connecticut, Republican from Arizona, let`s do this. Let`s see you in a month come on together while we talk some policy issue. All right, how about that? MCSALLY: Let`s do it.
HIMES: Thanks, Chuck.
TODD: Thank you guys. Appreciate it. Lawmakers today were unanimous in their praise of the capitol police force.
(START VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One of the things that really fortunate and probably why not everybody probably would have died except for the fact that the Capitol Hill police were there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Having Congressman Steve Scalise there where he`s third in the chain of command in the House of Representatives, that was a blessing. I don`t know if we would have gotten the police protection or capitol police protection without him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fortunately, there was a security detail there, the Capitol Hill police, or we all would have been vulnerable and without fire, wouldn`t return fire. So, I`m sure they saved who knows how many lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: But as Congressman Mo Brooks pointed out there, the capitol police were only at the practice because Congressman Steve Scalise, who is a member of leadership, has a detail. Now, most of the 535 members of the U.S. congress do not have a security detail. Today`s incident is again raising those questions about congressional safety and whether or not particularly in this highly charged political climate members should have more protection.
Joining me now is someone with very personal connection in this issue, retired navy captain and NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, who of course is the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot while attending an event with her constituents in Tucson in 2011. Mark, good to see you. I`m sorry to be bringing you on the show for this particular incident, but you lived this firsthand. You saw this. I guess -- Mark, I apologize. I have to go to a breaking news. News conference. We will pick this up right after we go. Let`s go.
(START VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY SLATER, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE OF FBI`S WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: Good afternoon. Hello, again, my name is Timothy Slater. I`m the special agent in charge of the FBI`s Washington field office. And I`m here to provide an investigative update on the shooting that occurred this morning. I would like to thank the Alexandria Police Department, U.S. Capitol police, and medical response teams who responded to the scene this morning for their quick and decisive actions, actually saving lives.
I remind you that this is an active investigation, and details continue to unfold. I stress this earlier and I`m going to underscore it now. That the FBI is not going to talk about the character or nature in which we are investigating this case other than to say we continue to work this as an active investigation and an ongoing matter.
There has been some confusion about the injuries involved. Our statement sent out earlier today, this afternoon actually, identified the number of victims and their injuries. Let me just review that quickly for you. Five individuals were shot. A congressman, a United States capitol police officer, a congressional staffer, a lobbyist, and the subject.
And additional two individuals, a congressman and a capitol police officer, attained secondary injuries at the scene and were transported to local hospitals and treated. As for the subject, and this is the only time that I`ll be referring to him by his name. This afternoon, we released a statement noting that the subject`s name was James Hodgkinson, 66 years of age, of Belleville, Illinois.
He succumbed to his injuries at the hospital, and the D.C. medical examiner has issued the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds to the torso. The FBI has issued a seeking information poster identifying the shooter, and it can be found at www.fbi.gov. While the subject is deceased, we continue to actively investigate the shooter`s motives, acquaintances, and whereabouts that led to today`s incident.
We will continue to have presence as we process a scene here in Alexandria and FBI agents are searching the shooter`s home, his residence is Belleville, Illinois. The subject`s vehicle was located on scene and has been swept by Alexandria PD and the ATF, and we will be processing with our FBI evidence recovery team as well. Obviously, we are looking to glean what we can from the contents regarding his electrical devices that he owned.
Law enforcement has reason to believe that the shooter has been in Alexandria, Virginia area since March of this year. The FBI has issued, again, seeking information poster that is located on our website, asking the public to come forward with information on the shooter. To the local Alexandria community, we believe that the shooter has been living out of his vehicle in the vicinity of East Monroe Street, therefore asking you to report any interactions that you may had with him.
Likewise, the subject traveled from his residence in Illinois, and we are asking and speaking with individuals who know him personally or who may have encountered him in his travels. If you have information, please call the FBI 24-hour tip line at 1-800-call-FBI and select option one, or visit tips.fbi.gov. Again, FBI`s 24-hour tip line at 1-800-call-FBI, and select option one. Or visit tips.fbi.gov. All tips will remain confidential. No amount of information is too small to report.
Law enforcement will remain on scene until processing of the scene has been completed. We ask that the local community for your patience and your cooperation as we complete this task. Further updates will be shared via written statements unless law enforcement collectively stand behind me advises otherwise. I`ll open it up for a few questions in just a second, but I want to turn it over to Chief Brown from Alexandria PD for a couple comments. MICHAEL BROWN, CHIEF, ALEXANDRIA POLICE DEPARTMENT: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. It`s Mike Brown, B-R-O-W-N, chief of the Alexandria Police Department. I just wanted to get back and give a status as to what we`re doing in this community to try and reassure the community in terms of the safety and the security of our residents.
Right now, we are canvassing the immediate area here, doing door to door with our colleagues from the Sheriff`s Department and the Fire Department, so that we can reassure people in the community that we believe this incident today is over, although the investigation will continue in this area for a while. We are also working with some of our other departments in the city, for example, the Department of Community and Health Services, to make services that are generally available for these kinds of situations, available to our communities over the next couple days.
We care very much about our residents and the people that come to visit us in this city, and we`re doing everything we can to reassure them that this is a safe community and that your government and your public safety personnel care deeply about it. That said, you`ll see a lot of law enforcement and fire personnel working this area, trying to reassure them of such. So I thank you for that. And as a part of the department, we will continue to work with the FBI as they move forward on their investigation. Thank you very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Special Agent Slater, did he have a vendetta against Republicans?
SLATER: I have no comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know whose shots brought him down? SLATER: It was a multiple local law enforcement response, so I do not know at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both the capitol police and Alexandria who responded and shot him?
SLATER: I`m not going to comment on exactly who it was. It was multiple local agencies. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you at least talk about the weapon, can you give us a little idea of what you`re trying to run down on the weapon?
SLATER: The only comment I`ll make about weapon is one hand gun and one rifle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what are you trying to learn about them?
SLATER: Where they came from, who bought them, how he acquired them. All the logical investigative leads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: St. Clair County officers interacted with him in March in Illinois. Was it shortly after that that he came here, because you say he`s been here since March?
SLATER: We believe he has been here since March, so I`m not going to comment on the specifics of that. Ma`am? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was the capitol police officer shot in the original fire or when he exchanged gunfire? SLATER: I`m not exactly sure on that, ma`am. I don`t have a comment on that. Sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His location, people who may have seen them, is there anything you could say about what he`s been doing?
SLATER: No, that`s what we`re really asking the public to help us with, because we`re just not sure at this time. I`m not going to comment on that. Part of the active investigation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he on the radar of law enforcement in Illinois?
SLATER: I`m not going to comment on that either. Really, we`re exploring all angles and we`re not going to be limited by -- we`ll let the facts take us where it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Witnesses say he was handcuffed. Was he still speaking and conscious when he was taken away?
SLATER: I can`t comment on that. I`m not sure. Ma`am.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible) between Illinois and (inaudible).
SLATER: That I`m not aware of. No, ma`am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do we know if he was working in the area?
SLATER: It appears that he was not working.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible).
SLATER: I`m not going to comment on the victims. What I have about the victims is what I already provided.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible). SLATER: Do we know? I believe -- yeah, not sure about that. I`ll get back with you. We`ll put it next. Sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said he was staying in a vehicle. Can you describe the vehicle, and if it is from Illinois, did it have Illinois plate?
SLATER: The only comment I`ll make is a white cargo van. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can the capitol police talk to us about their officers, particularly those who are injured and returned fire?
FREDINAL ROGERS, DEPUTY CHIEF OF THE U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Hello, Deputy Chief Fred Rogers for U.S. capitol police, representing Chief Matt Verderosa. We did put a statement out today, and the chief wants to commend special agent Crystal Griner, David Bailey, and Henry Cabrera for the heroic and appropriate response in protecting members of congress today.
He`s grateful for Special Agent Griner who is in good condition at the hospital having been shot in the ankle. And Special Agent Bailey was treated and released, having sustained a minor injury during the incident. United States Capitol Police is dedicated to the mission of protecting the United States capitol, members of congress and staff, and the visiting public.
Today we saw how our officers` extensive training was put into action. We also like to thank our partner agencies, the FBI, ATF, U.S. Park Police, Virginia State Police, and especially the Alexandria police for their work in helping us to respond and mitigate this incident. We continue to provide a robust and visible presence at the capitol complex and to monitor national and world events to provide a level of security that`s appropriate for the U.S. congress. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe Officer Griner`s response after being shot and continuing to work to get the suspect?
ROGERS: That`s part of the ongoing investigation and I won`t comment. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just so we understand the mission of the capitol police, the agents who were with Congressman Scalise, give us a sense, is that a protective detail? What`s their mission? Are they always with protectees? How does that work?
ROGERS: Their particular assignment today was to protect the congressman. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was he the only one with protective detail there today?
ROGERS: Today`s date, we had capitol police officers assigned to monitor the event. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s video and audio recordings of the gunfire and the gun battle. And it would appear to have been ferocious. By a layman`s account, dozens and dozens of shots fired and people screaming to duck down. Can you describe what your officers and what the capitol officers were facing when they came in? BROWN: I won`t go into the specifics of the investigation, but I have heard the video and I`ve talked with some of my officers, at least, and some of them, and quite frankly, it was not only chaotic, but there was a combat situation. That`s something that the law enforcement is trained to do.
Our officers are trained to do. I`m very proud of the officers at APD and the officers from the capitol police who stood their ground and did their job. More will come out of this when the facts are known and the investigation is complete. But I couldn`t be more proud of the Alexandria police officers. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were up against somebody with a semiautomatic weapon and returning fire, engaging to begin with, anyway, with handguns? BROWN: As I mentioned earlier, they did engage in a firefight. I won`t get into the details of that because that is also part of the investigation. We, like every other agency, rely on doing a shooting investigation any time we have a discharge of weapons, and we are doing that right now, and to get ahead of that would not be fair for the officers and not fair for the agency.
We`ll deal with the facts when they become apparent. But our officers are doing fine. They were taken care of, good care of them. We`re very concerned about them. I`m personally concerned about them, but they did a great job today and I`m very proud of them. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were they on the scene before the shooting or when they responded to the 911 call? BROWN: We received a call, shots fired, as I mentioned this morning at 7:09 in the morning. Within three minutes, we had all three units here. Some of the units were here earlier. And they were engaged upon their arrival. I won`t go into any greater detail than that because of the investigation. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Had your officers have any encounters with Mr. Hodgkinson in the months he`s been here until today? BROWN: I can`t speak to that right now because that`s part of the investigation and I don`t want to get ahead of the investigation. The FBI has the lead. We`re working with the FBI, and at some point in time, we`ll be able to give you the information when it`s available. Okay, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (inaudible).
SLATER: I`m not sure of that. We`ll have to get back to you on that one. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any indication he had discussed this with anyone else or that anyone else was involved in this in any way? SLATER: No, that`s part of the investigation, so I`m not going to comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone else in custody? SLATER: We have nobody else in custody. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the gun, sir, he had multiple guns on him? SLATER: I`m not going to comment about the guns other than one handgun and one rifle. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Attributed to him. SLATER: Potentially. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he have the handgun on him or in the car? SLATER: I`m not going to comment on the guns. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Special agent, the entire conversation about the scene today is how it could be prevented. Some say if you had more capitol police protecting the congressmen, it could be prevented. If liberals talked differently about President Trump, it could be prevented. Do you expect your investigation will give us answers to that question everyone is asking?
SLATER: No, I just ask you that let us run the investigation and we`ll let the facts lie where they may. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can we expect out of the investigation? We know you all have concluded he was the shooter. What else will the final report provide to us? What do you hope to answer?
SLATER: We hope to answer motive and why he was here and why he did what he did. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we get a comment on the increasing number of death threats since the shooting, a lot of people have been coming out.
SLATER: I have no information about that. The capitol police have no information on that at the moment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do they handle that?
SLATER: I have no comment on it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (inaudible). Why do you think he chose this day? Is there any (inaudible).
SLATER: What do you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he choose today? SLATER: I have no indication of why today at all. No, sir. Or this place. I can`t speak to the security at the national park, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Might this be a question of opportunity? He was living basically on the streets. The politicians came to him, essentially. And might it simply be that this was an opportunity where his previously expressed anger on social media lashed out? SLATER: We`ll figure that out as the investigation unfolds. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Special agent, just one more question. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have any indication that he knew what was going on here? SLATER: We have no indication that he knew this was going on. No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you`re not actively seeking any other suspects in this? SLATER: No, we`re asking for the community`s help. We`ll run it out where it leads, where it goes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As of now, you`re not asking the community, be on the lookout for anybody else. You`re not searching for anybody else?
SLATER: Not at the moment, but we don`t know where this will lead. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP) TODD: And we just flashed the official FBI poster just now, and this is why this presser does matter at this point for the public. This isn`t just getting information. It`s also an attempt to seek information. Anybody who has any information about this person, had run-ins with him.
Clearly, they`re looking for information, trying to piece together how he spent the last couple of months if indeed he did get here in March. I`m joined again by Captain Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Mark, let me just start with your initial reaction when you heard the news. MARK KELLY, RETIRED NAVY CAPTAIN AND NASA ASTRONAUT: Well, my phone was buzzing a number of times this morning, so I woke up. We are here in New York, but we were on west coast time. I figured I should take a look at it and then saw the news alert, turned on the TV, and it brought back a lot of memories to January of 2011 when Gabby was shot.
And it didn`t take long to find out that a member of congress was shot and also capitol police. And, you know, I thought back to that day and what that experience was like for me. And Gabby`s, you know, reaction was what you would expect. She was, you know, sad but thinking and praying for her colleagues in congress.
TODD: What -- look, the big thing that came out of that as far as our politics was concerned is that there was a brief, I guess a brief respite of the polarization, at least as far as how it was practiced in the house. But it didn`t take long for that to end, sadly. First, I want to ask you on the security front as somebody with a military background, I am curious. Do you think members of congress need more security?
KELLY: Well, you know, when you consider what happened in 2011 and what happened today, you know, I think there were certain scenarios and places and, you know, environments that you certainly should analyze a level of security. You know, we even do that personally for ourselves at times. So, I think it depends. At the same time, you know, it`s very difficult to live in a society where we need security everywhere and in every place.
But as we could see from what happened today, you know, members of congress in certain scenarios become very high-value targets and it`s really unfortunate that this happened, but I think we`re also very fortunate that the capital police was there to put a stop to this sooner rather than later. TODD: It sounds like when you say certain scenarios, it sounds like you believe that, look, if you`re going to -- if you`re having time in your district, maybe there is officially a relationship with the local law enforcement that they`re always on duty, almost in the same way you get local law enforcement at a high school football game. If there is a gathering and a member of congress is at the center of that gathering, is that the type of protocols you think are reasonable to start adding?
KELLY: Well, I think it depends on the member of congress and the district and what`s going on. I mean, does this person have any specific threats against them? Is there any reason to believe something could happen? You know, there`s 535 members of congress and to have security on all of them all the time would be a rather difficult thing to do.
But that`s something that, you know, the speaker and leadership there, they need to evaluate. The capital police, the sergeant of arms need to take a close look at this and ultimately make, you know, the smart decision to keep members of congress and the community safe.
I mean, we obviously have a problem in our country when we see these things like this, not specifically this kind of action, but we see, you know, mass shootings happen repeatedly. So, I think we would all agree that we have a problem. And, you know, there are solutions to problems.
TODD: Well, it`s interesting. I think you`re right. We all agree we have a problem. I don`t think we agree what that problem is. I think some see its a gun violence problem. I think some look at it as a political rhetoric civil discourse issue. I think still others would say it`s a combination of the two. And unfortunately sometimes we all we can agree we have a problem, all of a sudden the political fight breaks out because we`re disagreeing on the specifics.
KELLY: Right. And the debate gets very heated and partisan. I want to come back to something you mentioned right in the beginning, you know, why -- sort of why do we have this partisanship. And this is something I think we need to address as a country. As you know, we create this partisanship, certainly within the House of Representatives and the way we gerrymander congressional districts.
We do it every 10 years, and we redraw lines, and we make our districts more safe for Democrats and Republicans and then we wind up with this -- more of this hyper-partisanship. You know, when Gabby served in congress, she was a moderate Democrat in a Republican district. She always felt it very important to work across party lines. We need more of that. And it also -- not only does it tone down the partisanship, it allows us to solve our problems in a much more straightforward way.
TODD: You got to incentivize people to get out of their tribes. Anyway, as I think David French who I am about to go back to, pointed out our tribal nature. Mark Kelly, thanks for coming on, providing your perspective. You have fortunately a unique perspective on an issue like this.
KELLY: Thanks for having me on, Chuck. Appreciate it.
TODD: Let me bring back the panel. Helene, David, and Ruth. David, I want to start with you. Interesting diagnosis there from Mark Kelly. But he does bring up a point and the fact is you brought up the tribal issue. And I hear the word tribe now more and more which is people just go hide in their safe spaces, maybe their safe political space. And they assume, oh, the other side is the caustic one, not our side. And vice versa. And then the more you stay in your own tribe, the more it is easy to dehumanize somebody not in it.
DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR WRITER FOR NATIONAL REVIEW: That`s right. One of the things that we see now that occurs is the first thing when there is a tragedy, when there is a shooting, when there is an attack, the first impulse by many people is to say, well, how can I turn this either to my advantage and use it as a club to beat the other person? Or how can I distance myself from it so as to not damage my underlying political point of view? And that`s a very damaging dynamic that`s emerging.
And I think it`s important to say that this is not -- and again, to emphasize, what happened today is not a one-off completely isolated event of political violence in this country. We`re not at the point where we were in the 1960s and early `70s, thank God, but I think we`re at the most volatile point that we`ve been since then. There have been attacks. People have died around this country as a result of politically motivated violence. And it`s time for a little bit of shock treatment for people to wake up. And it`s not civility. Civility is kind of a shallow term.
(LAUGHTER) TODD: That`s a fair point, yeah.
FRENCH: It`s respect. Respect is a deeper term. TODD: Ruth, David brings up, you know, perhaps the most vitriolic times since that period of, I guess you could say 68 to the mid 70s, we certainly had multiple people, either elected leaders get gunned down or attempted assassinations. Do we have the leaders that could actually rise to the occasion right now?
RUTH MARCUS, JOURNALIST FOR THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, I think that the members of congress, the members of the house, the speaker, the minority leader did their best. And I think deserve a lot of credit for doing a good job of rising to the occasion. And I`m going to surprise some people who have heard me talk about President Trump in the past, but he rose to the occasion today. He used soothing words instead of incendiary words. There are tweets that he could have tweeted that we haven`t read, or at least haven`t read yet.
And I think that he acted in the way today that you want to see a president act. What we need to figure out in this country is how to keep that going for more than a day or a week or a month, not just from the president, but from other members of congress. And, you know, if you go back to the things that people were saying after Gabby Giffords was tragically shot, you do get a little bit discouraged and thinking that that can really happen.
TODD: Helene, I guess the real test to me is where are we in a month.
HELENE COOPER, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think that is the test. And, you know, I don`t want to be Debbie Downer today of all days, but I`m not particularly hopeful. But I do think Ruth is right. I think Trump -- President Trump struck the right chord today. We heard soothing words of unity coming from congressional republicans and democrats on the hill. So, let`s see where we go from there.
But this is not -- I mean, you started off this asking do we have the political leaders right now who are capable of rising to the occasion. They are certainly capable of it, but in the past they haven`t demonstrated that. They haven`t demonstrated anything but divisiveness in the last year or two. We`ll see how this plays out and what they do in the month going forward.
TODD: David, an extra -- it`s quite a test, I think, for President Trump because I don`t know if 70 percent of the country will listen to what he has to say right now.
FRENCH: Right. I mean, that`s a problem that he has to deal with. And respect for political opponents is not exactly the phrase you would use to characterize Donald Trump. But sometimes shock to the system can cause people -- a shock to the system can cause people to change. Maybe a shock to the system can cause people to grow up. I mean, time will tell. I am with you. Where are we going to be in a month from now? It`s easy to take this stance today. It`s what all -- it`s what everyone demands. Where are we a month from now?
TODD: All right. David French, Helene Cooper, and Ruth Marcus. It`s been a rough day. I guess the one piece of good news out of it is that congress is acting responsibly today. Hopefully they take this lesson and go forward. Anyway, all three of you, I appreciate it. Thanks very much for your time. And guess what? We in the media, we have a role to play, too. We need to be calling out caustic rhetoric when it`s there.
And not fighting back with caustic rhetoric. What about-ism is among the worst instincts of partisans on both side. When somebody says this, they say what about that. That`s not the issue. Hopefully everybody is looking in the mirror tonight and going forward. That`s all I have for tonight. We`ll be back tomorrow with more "MTP Daily." "For the Record" with Greta starts right now. Greta, rough day, it`s all yours.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END