House GOP hits FBI’s ‘suicide by cop’ ruling in 2017 attack on congressmen

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More than a dozen House Republicans signed a letter Tuesday to FBI Director Christopher A. Wray demanding he investigate how the bureau came to classify a near-massacre of GOP members by a crazed gunman as merely “suicide by cop.”

“We fear that the FBI’s inability or unwillingness to fully investigate this shooting as a matter of domestic extremism four years ago leaves a blind spot within the Bureau in fully assessing risks we face today,” the letter states. “The FBI telling us that James Hodgkinson’s attempt to assassinate dozens of Members of Congress was simply ‘suicide by cop’ does nothing to alleviate this concern.”

The letter was spearheaded by Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Ohio Republican, who jump-started the GOP protest at an April hearing by disclosing the FBI’s verdict for the first time on the ballpark shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, on June 14, 2017.

Also signing the letter was House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican. He was shot in the hip by would-be assassin James Hodgkinson, who hid behind a third base dugout while the congressman stood near second base. Airlifted to a hospital, Mr. Scalise lay in critical condition for a time.

It was Mr. Scalise’s presence at the Republican baseball practice that likely saved lives. As a member of leadership, he was accompanied by two U.S. Capitol Police officers who sprang from their unmarked car and engaged Hodgkinson. On the move, Hodgkinson fired more than 70 rounds before being mortally wounded by Capitol and Alexandria police.

In a story published Monday, Mr. Wenstrup told The Washington Times that without those two Capitol Police officers, Hodgkinson would have had extra minutes to kill a number of lawmakers and staff. Armed with a semiautomatic rifle and 9mm handgun, he began firing at 7:09 a.m. and was struck down at 7:14.

Republicans who signed the Wray letter were at the field that day and/or were on a list of six Republicans carried by Hodgkinson.

A left-wing activist whose life was on a downward spiral, Hodgkinson came from Illinois to Alexandria in March 2017 carrying his weapons and more than 200 rounds of ammunition. He left a trail of social media comments disdainful of Republicans and a call on followers to “destroy” President Donald Trump.

In an unreleased report to Congress last year, both the director of national intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security concluded the attack was domestic terrorism.

Jill Sanborn, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, repudiated the bureau’s “suicide by cop” verdict in congressional testimony last month. Ms. Sanborn, at that time the assistant director of the Counterterrorism Division at FBI headquarters, said that if the attack had happened today, it would be opened as a domestic terrorism case.

The GOP letter states: “Director Wray, you stated at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) hearing on April 15, 2021, that ‘the FBI’s reputation is something that matters deeply’ to you. It matters to us, too. And it matters to the American people.

“That is why we ask that you review the FBI’s findings of the 2017 attack, interview all witnesses who were present that morning, update the conclusions of the FBI’s investigation, if warranted, and publicly release the findings. We also urge you to conduct an internal investigation into how the FBI reached the conclusion of ‘suicide by cop’ and who was behind that process and determination,” the GOP letter states.

Some Republicans have grown to distrust the FBI, given its pursuit of the Trump campaign in 2016-19 and an apparent focus on right-wing extremists, but not left-wing.

“Today, there is a heightened focus on violent domestic extremism in the United States,” the letter states. “We all agree that violent extremism of any kind must be rooted out and addressed by our law enforcement agencies. But we cannot presume to understand the scope of this issue if our law enforcement agencies do not investigate all instances of extremism, regardless of motivating ideology, with equal vigor.

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