Return to Transcripts main page
THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Congress Reacts to Baseball Field Shooting; Managers of Congressional Baseball Teams Speak Out. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 14, 2017 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
REP. MIKE DOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA: You know, it shouldn't take an incident like this to bring us together. I know, in times of tragedy, we have -- Americans do that, but Joe and I have been reflecting a lot lately just on how we can still maintain our principles and our legislative agendas, but we could do it in a more civil way.
And when the leadership of this country is civil towards one another, maybe the public will start being civil towards one another, too, and the news media will be civil towards members of Congress and the public.
And we change the mood in this country, so that people don't get filled up with this kind of hatred. But, tonight, we want to be together. I just suggested to Joe that we would like to host the entire Republican team down at the Democratic club. Probably, some of them have never stepped foot in that building.
REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: I have been in it one time.
DOYLE: But I -- we want to have them to dinner. We're going to have both teams together and just have a time to be with each other and reflect upon this day and to share some food and drink and get to know each other a little bit better.
So, Joe, I'm hoping that you guys, most of their schedules will allow them to intend, and we look forward to the baseball game tomorrow and continuing this great tradition.
I'm going to bring my food tasters, but we will be there.
We will take a few questions. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Have you discussed any additional security measures for the game tomorrow, in light of what's happened?
DOYLE: I checked both with the speaker's office and I checked with the chief of the Capitol Hill Police, and they have both assured us that -- plus, my staff has checked with the national security personnel department.
It's going to be a very secure facility. It's designed to be secure. And we have all been assured that it will be a very safe facility tomorrow evening. QUESTION: Just a follow-up quickly as well, the FBI has told us that
there was a second congressman who was transported to a hospital with an injury this morning.
DOYLE: Congressman Roger Williams is my coach, and he, in trying to protect some of the players and my son is -- my son and I scrambled into the dugout -- he sprained his ankle, and he has had medical attention.
We don't think it's broken. He was not shot, though. He injured himself in trying to protect some other people.
QUESTION: As far as (OFF-MIKE) security if Representative Scalise's Capitol Police detail were not there, rather, if he wasn't there, they wouldn't have been there.
Going forward, as far as large groups of members doing events like this, is there -- is this being rethought as to how much security really should be put in place?
BARTON: There was, I believe, another security detail there from the Capitol Hill Police simply because there were a lot of congressmen there, and they did assist in attacking the shooter.
But, as Mike has pointed out, there would have only been one officer, maybe two, had not Congressman Scalise been the majority whip, so that is something that we're rethinking.
DOYLE: And they are generally not on the field.
At our practice, we had no security detail on the field. There was a Capitol Police car in the parking lot with one officer about 500 yards away, by the time he even figured out what the commotion was all about and called for backup.
BARTON: And our officers were not on the field, but they were outside the vehicle. They were out by the bleachers outside the field.
BARTON: And the shooter was outside. He never -- the shooter never got into the field. He was over on the third base side.
And, luckily for us, all of our people always stay on the first base side. And the gates on the third base side were locked. And so he had to try to go around behind home plate, and the Capitol Hill Police and Mr. Scalise's police and eventually fairly quickly the Alexandria police all kind of converged on him and prevented him from getting on to the field.
QUESTION: Seeing you both up here, can you talk about, in light of this morning's events, the spirit of bipartisanship on the Hill, and also you touched on this a bit, the game is normally very competitive.
Can you comment on how the spirit of competition might change in light of this morning?
DOYLE: I don't think the spirit of competition will change. I mean, competition is a good thing. We're mostly competitive people, or we wouldn't have made it down here anyway.
So, we don't mind that part about it. The sportsmanship has always been good at our games. Joe will tell you, after those games are over, we get together for the awarding of the trophies. And Joe has been extremely gracious the seven years in a row when I beat him.
BARTON: I knew that would come up.
DOYLE: And I was extremely gracious when he beat me last year.
But, no, that's never been a problem, Joe, in all the years that I have been associated with the game, for 23 years, so I don't think that part will change.
BARTON: We're intense on the field.
I haven't played the game a long time, but when I did, I was the pitcher for our team. And I did brush back some of my Democrat friends, and they brushed me back.
DOYLE: But he couldn't throw hard enough to hurt us, so it wasn't that bad.
BARTON: I certainly couldn't today. I don't believe I could get it to home plate today without bouncing it.
But, as Mike pointed out, hopefully, this will -- you know, you can be intensely political without being personal. And a lot of the traditions of the House are designed to defuse personal animosity, the gentleman from Pennsylvania, my good friend when Texas.
(AUDIO GAP) comments about member on the floor. So the rules are designed to kind of defuse that. And, of course, Mike and I serve on the same committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee.
And so we have a bond beyond just managers of the baseball teams. But it is something that we probably need to meet at the leadership level and at the regular member level, and try to address, because what happened this morning was unconscionable, except that it was there.
You could see the shooter ducking out and shooting, primarily by the time I saw him, at the policeman, and he was doing it simply because apparently he didn't like the political climate and chose to start to shooting at a bunch of congressmen who today happened to be Republicans.
That's not -- that's not America.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) We've been hearing from a lot of members and (OFF-MIKE) staffers who feel that the climate has changed here on Capitol Hill.
And (OFF-MIKE) talking about leadership discussions and members don't know each other as well. (OFF-MIKE) been for a while now. Have you felt that? (OFF-MIKE) change that?
And then some are raising the idea -- I can't even believe I'm even asking this -- but maybe this shouldn't be a Republican vs. Democrat game. That's an odd question, but I'm hearing it out there.
BARTON: Well, I think we ought to continue. Both Mike and I, you know, requested or -- requested, suggested that the game continue tomorrow.
We left it obviously to the speaker and Mrs. Pelosi and the Capitol Hill Police to make the final decision, but he and I both thought that the game should go on.
And, again, you can be a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican or somewhere in between and discuss your issues on the floor, and not go out in the lobby and get in a fist-fight. This gentleman apparently drove 800 miles.
Now, whether he came with intent, who knows. We will never know since he passed away. But we need to take a step back, and I think at our level we should be a part of that process. That's why we're holding a joint press conference.
BARTON: I think the Internet and Twitter and all the instantaneity (sic), if that is the right way to say it, of the news cycle has made it more impersonal and members flying back to their districts every weekend.
Very few members live up here. You know, it is a different climate today than it was in 1985, when I first got elected. Part of it is technology. And part of it is the way politics have evolved, the attack politics and the 15-second attack ads and things like that.
Members are not looked at as people anymore. We're kind looked at as -- I won't say targets, but people think they can come to our town hall meetings and say just the most obnoxious things, and we not feel it personally.
But I can assure you every member of Congress is a person. He has family. And while we try not to show it, sometimes, we do take it personally.
DOYLE: Yes, there's just very few opportunities to interact outside having our suits on. [16:10:03]
I have watched Joe's son Jack grow up. And I always have this yearly banter about him about trying to get a secret out of Jack, saying, hey, yes, tell me something that your dad is doing that I don't know about. And Jack would always say, I'm not telling you anything. I'm not giving you any information.
And so, when you know somebody's kid, somebody's spouse, play baseball with them, you see them at the gym, and you talk to them there, it's different.
When you see that person on the committee level, I mean, I wouldn't think of being harsh to Joe Barton, no matter what we may disagree about politically, because I feel like he's a family friend.
But there's so much pressure on members to get home right after the last vote. You see us all running into National or, to you know, to Dulles to get on planes, because we're not allowed to stay here, because then we have gone Washington. We have got to be back home in our districts.
And the things that used to bring members together, whether it's travel, that's frowned upon. If you belong to the gym, well, they think, well, that's a perk you shouldn't have.
All the chances to interact with each other outside our suits and outside floor debate is few and far between. And I think it's -- and Joe's right. When he and I first got here, there wasn't social media. There wasn't the Internet.
But now people get information out of a fire hydrant, much of it without a filter. And the level of discourse has become -- it's not personal. People don't look at each other eye to eye. They use the two thumbs and insult one another.
And there's -- it's, I just think, lessened the civility, and not just our -- not just in politics, but in day-to-day interaction with people that you see outside, too. So it's -- it's just a different era we're operating in that is a little bit tougher than the one we operated in prior to all these changes.
BARTON: When my son Jack was born, I was chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. And Jack got as many presents from the Democrats as he did from the Republicans. And he still has some of those.
He's grown up. He lives in Texas with his mother. We're divorced, but he's grown up in the Congress, and he comes up every year. And when he comes on the floor, he will touch base with some of the Republicans from Texas, and then he will make a beeline to the Democratic side to talk to Cedric Richmond, to Mike Doyle, and when John Dingell was still in Congress, to John Dingell.
BARTON: So, he is an example of bipartisanship in himself. And he was at practice this morning, and not only -- he had 25 dads. Everybody out there was looking out for him, not just me.
DOYLE: The first thing I thought about when that happened was Jack and that he was going to be OK. Cedric had his 3-year-old son at our practice.
Closer to game time, families come to watch the game and they are here. And a lot of them come out to the practices. And I never -- I don't think any of us ever give thought to our safety when we were practicing on the baseball field.
It just didn't occur to us that anything bad could happen.
BARTON: Especially at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning.
DOYLE: Yes, when you figure most of the bad guys are sleeping. So...
BARTON: Anybody else?
QUESTION: Can I just ask you a follow-up on what you were just saying about your personal safety? What do you say to your son or to your wife who is going to look at you now and say, I don't think you're safe at work? Do you feel safe?
BARTON: I feel safe, but, you know, I'm an adult, and I make a conscious decision to run for Congress.
Nobody puts a gun to our head and says we have to run.
DOYLE: That's right.
BARTON: It's different with your family. Your family shouldn't be exposed to that. But it really doesn't matter these days whether you're up here in Texas in my case or Pennsylvania.
We have had people protest at my house in Texas when my family was there. And we have broached this with the speaker. It's something -- you know, everybody has a right under the First Amendment to the Constitution to address Congress for redress of grievances. And that's why we do a lot of town halls, so our constituency can come and talk to us directly face to face.
[16:15:05] Your family should not be exposed to that and who would have thought that taking my son or in the case of Cedric Richmond, his son to a baseball practice in the early morning would expose him to danger. That's -- that's not acceptable. So, that is something that I will think about in the future.
REP. MIKE DOYLE (D), PENNSYLVANIA, MANAGES DEMOCRATIC BASEBALL TEAM: I bet you most members of Congress will tell you that they don't want any personal detail -- I certainly don't. I've never felt unsafe here or in Pittsburgh, but I do think, you know, when you have a situation when you've got 20 or 30 or 40 members of Congress all in the same place, in an area that is completely open to anybody just walking through, you know, perhaps we should maybe rethink that a little bit, but I think from a personal standpoint most members would tell you that they -- that they feel fine and they are not looking for any security.
BARTON: This young lady right there.
REPORTER: Do you think there's been an increase in political violence?
BARTON: Political violence?
Well, there's been an increase in terrorism, if that's considered political violence, I'd say the answer is yes.
You know, this country has always had a huge amount of tension politically. I mean, the civil war, we shot at each other for two and a half, three and a half years. Normally, you yell and scream and that's as far as it goes.
Again, the technology today makes it so much more personal, and I think some of the TV attack ads make it easier for the general population to want to resort to personal attacks. That's just my opinion.
REPORTER: Do you think -- you clearly are both moved by this morning's events. Do you think this will translate into any actual change, you know, six months from now?
BARTON: I would say yes because this is -- this is a -- the institution of the Congress and the extension of that, this baseball game. You know, we play it to have fun, but we -- we raise a lot of money for charity. We'll raise over half a million dollars for charity tomorrow night, and -- and I think a lot of members who came to the briefing this morning feel like it's time to take a step back, and I can tell you, Mike Doyle inviting the Republicans to dinner at the Democratic Campaign Committee has got to be a historic first step in bipartisanship, and I'm going to order the most expensive steak on menu, if you have steak on menu.
DOYLE: We're Democrats. We don't have steak, Joe. That's just at your club.
I don't know that I would go as far as to say yes. I've been around this place a long time and I've seen a lot of tragedy happen, and I've seen us all say it's going to change, and it hasn't. So, let me say -- the answer that I would say is I hope so because it needs to happen. But I guess time will tell.
REPORTER: Congressman, it's hard to believe it's only been a couple of hours since it happened. Can you describe a little more of the emotional and psychological stages that you've gone through. How your son is doing? A few of you have changed your clothes.
BARTON: I did get home.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) and also an update on the other victims.
DOYLE: I told him I wouldn't stand next to him until he changed his clothes.
BARTON: One thing that hasn't changed is 3959 is a parking lot and that's why we started at 4:00 instead of 3:30. Well, when it happens, I mean, you don't know that you're going to be shot at, and so, you hear this bang, and you're not sure that it's a shot. But then you heard three or four bang, bang, bangs right in a row, and you knew that we were being shot at.
And my son was down in the -- in the -- along the first base side with my oldest son in a batting cage, and I was by the first base dugout in the on-deck circle, and so, I looked down there and yelled at Brad my oldest son, you know, get Jack and get down, and they both did and then somebody told me to get down, and I did and then we -- I got Jack -- he crawled under a car outside of the fence and he was under a car with the bleachers between him and the shooter so he was in a very safe place because it would have been really hard for that shooter to even know that he was there.
[16:20:02] And so, then you just wonder when it's going to stop, but you keep hearing these like firecrackers going off, and it may have only been four or five minutes, but it seemed like to me at least ten minutes before they finally got the shooter down, and so, while that's going on you're just -- I could see Jack. I could see him under the car and I just kept saying stay down, Jack, stay under the car, stay under the car, and I finally saw one of the security officers rush the shooter with his pistols drawn and said drop the pistol or drop the pistol or pistol down, and when he didn't do that, this -- I think this is the officer that -- that shot the attacker.
And we got everybody together and several members of our -- of Congress when Scalise was shot, they rushed to Steve and administered first aid and then protected him. Congressman Wenstrup and Congressman Brooks, Congressman Loudermilk, I'm missing one, there were four of them that were out the field at the time administering first aid and protecting Congressman Scalise.
So, you're just -- your focus is on your -- in my case, my -- both of my sons and then to get the shooter and then to check who was hurt. I did call 911. I also called the Capitol Hill police on my cell phone, and as soon as it was apparently safe to get up, I checked on everybody who was down and then made a phone call to try to get the speaker on the phone and let him know what was going on.
REPORTER: Can you tell us about the condition of those who were shot?
BARTON: Mr. Scalise is in stable condition. There was a volunteer, former congressional staffer who is probably the most seriously wounded. He's out of surgery and is -- I would say, I'm not a doctor, so I don't know what condition to rate him, but he is -- he does not appear to be in imminent danger. Another staff person for Roger Williams was shot in the leg. I think he's out of the hospital. Roger Williams, you know, broke his ankle or severely twisted his
ankle. He's in a boot on crutches, but he's OK. There are at least two of the officers who were shot, and I'm told that they are OK, and then the shooter was shot and passed away.
REPORTER: Sir, Congressman Scalise is stable?
BARTON: That's -- you'll have to check with his office. I'm told he's out of surgery and that --
REPORTER: You haven't been able to talk to him?
BARTON: I have not -- I have not tried to bother him, no, sir.
REPORTER: Will there be anything special, a special ceremony marking --
BARTON: We're working on that, both at our level and the Speaker Pelosi level. So, the short answer is we think so, but we don't have confirmation on that.
REPORTER: Congressmen, you are saying that you obviously want to find a better political climate to really be around, but how -- how can a better political climate happen when the likely arguments that are going to happen now are going to be on gun control or no gun control?
BARTON: Well, I can't answer that. I mean, thank God we had security people there this morning that had guns. I don't believe the shooter thought that through. The fact that we had people that could shoot back saved a lot of lives.
But, beyond, that I'm not going to comment. I mean, that's -- that's -- you know, honorable people can have different opinions about that issue.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This will be the last question.
REPORTER: On an emotional level and not a political level, there are mass shootings around the country. It's not uncommon. Does this change how like your visceral reaction to when these happen?
BARTON: Are you asking me or Mr. Doyle?
DOYLE: Mine has always been the same. When those children were shot at Sandy Hook, I mean, any time, any mass shooting like that happen, you think about your own family, your spouse, your siblings, because that's -- that's what happen. People lose their loved ones, and -- and these are horrific acts, and -- and I think all of us are just repulsed when they happen.
[16:25:07] And we have, you know, disagreements on what the answer to that is, and there's no easy answer to it. If there was an easy answer, it would be done already, but today feels just like these other incidents. To me, I thank God no one died. Well, the shooter died. We're just glad that everyone else was OK. BARTON: My reaction is why would somebody hate somebody so much that
they would shoot somebody that they didn't even know, other than an act of war where you're defending your country or in your home defending your family? I just don't see how people shoot people or kill people, attack people.
Here's somebody that I've never met and to my knowledge never met anybody on that field and yet he drove a fair distance, and whether he intended to do what he did or did it on the spur of the moment, when he started shooting, he was shooting to kill people, and thank God he wasn't a very good shot and thank God we had security officers on scene that shot back and deflected him from shooting the members. Had he been able to get inside the fence, on the first base side into the dugout, there were 15 to 20 members and staff that were just laying on ground, and they were not targets so long as he was outside the fence, but had he gotten in the fence, it could have been a bloodbath.
Thank y'all. The game is tomorrow at 7:00.
REPORTER: Thank you.
BARTON: Thank you.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
You were just listening to the managers of both congressional baseball teammates. That's Congressman Mike Doyle of the Pittsburgh area in Pennsylvania and Congressman Joe Barton of the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas saying that the game will go on tomorrow evening despite obviously the tragedy that occurred at the practice ball field earlier today.
Let's show you some video from just moments ago where we see FBI forensic teams on the scene in Alexandria, Virginia, where a congressman and four others were shot this morning. Had it not been for the presence and heroism of Capitol Hill police officers, I might now be reporting to you about a massacre. That's at least according to Senator Rand Paul, one of several witnesses to the shooting of the five individuals, including his colleague, Republican Congressman Steve Scalise of Indiana.
Scalise, we're told, is in critical condition right now after surgery, according to the hospital. Republican members of Congress were practicing for tomorrow's charity baseball game when police say a man with a history of vocal hostility to Republicans opened fire upon them. Witnesses are describing an absolutely chaotic scene, from anywhere from 50 to 100 shots fired.
This cell phone video of the chaos and shots echoing across the field was obtained just moments ago. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Is that guy OK out there? The guy -- the guy who has been shot? Is he OK? Anybody talking to him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Scalise is the third ranking member of the House of Representatives. He was shot in the hip. Four others were wounded. Congressional staffer Zack Barth, Matt Mika, who's a lobbyist for Tyson Foods who sometimes practices with the team, House Speaker Paul Ryan also earlier today identified two members of the capital police who are injured, Krystal Griner and David Bailey.
Two of the Capitol Hill police officers were only there because Majority Whip Scalise has a detail. Had he and therefore those two officers not have been there, we could very well right now be talking about a much worse tragedy.
Federal law enforcement sources identified the shooter earlier today as 66-year-old James Hodgkinson from Bellville, Illinois, which is outside St. Louis, Missouri, though his wife did tell ABC News earlier today that her husband had been living in Alexandria, Virginia, for the last two months. The shooter's social media footprint and letters to the editor that he wrote to his hometown paper made clear his strong support for Senator Bernie Sanders and his loathing of the Republican Party. He cursed President Trump, labeled the president a traitor and called for his destruction in several Facebook posts.
The shooter died from his injuries after the shootout with capitol police, news that we were first told by President Trump himself who had a somber and reflective message for the nation.
(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 can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans --