The FBI gave an utterly bizarre update on its investigation into an attempt to assassinate Republican members of Congress. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) remains in the hospital from the attempt on his life in which two police officers and a congressional staffer were also shot. The hospital upgraded his condition to “fair” and said he faces a long recovery.
Americans may know, thanks to public social media profiles, that attempted murderer James Hodgkinson was an active Democratic activist and Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer who hated Republican members of Congress. He held membership in multiple social media groups strongly opposed to Republicans, such as “The Road to Hell Is Paved With Republicans,” “Join the Resistance Worldwide,” “Donald Trump is not my President,” “Terminate the Republican Party,” “Boycott the Republican Party,” and “Expose Republican Fraud,” among dozens of other groups. He was a voracious consumer of liberal media and believed the conspiracy theory that Donald Trump colluded with Russia to secure the White House.
The FBI admits that Hodgkinson:
- vociferously raged against Republicans in online forums,
- had a piece of paper bearing the names of six members of Congress,
- was reported for doing target practice outside his home in recent months before moving to Alexandria,
- had mapped out a trip to the DC area,
- took multiple photos of the baseball field he would later shoot up, three days after the New York Times mentioned that Republicans practiced baseball at an Alexandria baseball field with little security,
- lived out of his van at the YMCA directly next door to the baseball field he shot up,
- legally purchased a rifle in March 2003 and 9 mm handgun “in November 2016,”
- modified the rifle at some point to accept a detachable magazine and replaced the original stock with a folding stock,
- rented a storage facility to hide hundreds of rounds of ammunition and additional rifle components,
- asked “Is this the Republican or Democrat baseball team?” before firing on the Republicans,
- ran a Google search for information on the “2017 Republican Convention” hours before the shooting,
- and took photos at high-profile Washington locations, including the east front plaza of the U.S. Capitol and the Dirksen Senate Office.
So what does the FBI decide this information means? Well, the takeaway of the briefing was characterized well by the Associated Press headline about it: “FBI: Gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind.” The Associated Press reported the FBI:
- believes the gunman “had no concrete plan to inflict violence” against Republicans,
- “had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why,”
- believes he may have just “happened upon” the baseball game the morning of June 14, and that the attack appeared “spontaneous,”
- are unclear on the “context” of Hodgkinson’s note with six names of members of Congress,
- does not believe that photographs of the baseball field or other sites “represented surveillance of intended targets,” and
- “painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects.”
In fact, USA Today went with “FBI offers portrait of troubled Alexandria shooter with ‘anger management problem’” for their headline, since that’s what the FBI emphasized in the briefing.
The FBI also said there was no “nexus to terrorism” in the attempted mass assassination of Republican leadership by a Democratic activist. The claim that tourists take pictures of a a completely unremarkable baseball field in a tiny neighborhood also seems odd, particularly when the pictures were taken a few days after The New York Times reported that Republican members of Congress practice baseball there with little security. Someone going by the moniker “Yoenis Cespedes” wrote, “As a guy who could arguably be called a reconnaissance manager when he was in the Army, this is reconnaissance.”
Oh, and here’s a little tidbit that didn’t interest many people in the media beyond a brief mention in the last paragraphs:
Hodgkinson also visited the office of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose campaign he had worked on as a volunteer, and was in email contact with the two Democratic senators from his home state.
As one Twitter wag put it, “You’d think “Congressional Shooter Visited Actual Capitol Hill Offices” would be kinda a big deal and you’d be wrong.”
I wrote last week that the media’s big problem right now is that everyone in the country knows how they’d be covering the shooting if the parties were reversed. Can you imagine if a shooter had visited the office of Sen. Ted Cruz and corresponded with two Republican senators? Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) gave emails to investigators last week but it was treated mostly as local news.
With trust in institutions at historic lows, and the bureaucracy beset by fears of politicization, the FBI made a poor decision to gaslight Americans by claiming that the assassination attempt wasn’t premeditated terrorism but a spontaneous “anger management” problem. Or, as Jason Beale put it:
Finally, this is what we get when the FBI allows politics to intervene in basic investigative analysis. A defensive, PC smoke screen. END/ pic.twitter.com/aQBKUGpud2
— Jason Beale (@jabeale) June 21, 2017
The FBI’s briefing appears so contrary to the facts as to be insulting. When a man with a history of hating Republicans cases a location, takes pictures, verifies the targets are Republicans before opening fire, has a list of Republican politicians in his pocket, and shoots and nearly kills Republicans, it’s hard to swallow the FBI’s contention that the shooting was “spontaneous” with “no target.” The agency should reconsider whether it wants to troll Americans about something this serious.