The FBI, under Republican pressure, has reclassified the 2017 near massacre of more than a dozen Republican lawmakers at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, from “suicide by cop” to an act of domestic terrorism.
The new designation of shooter James Hodgkinson as a “domestic violent extremist” is contained in a lengthy FBI report titled “Strategic Intelligence Assessment and Data on Domestic Terrorism.”
Republicans began pressuring the FBI on April 15 when Rep. Brad Wenstrup of Ohio, who was at the park that morning of June 14, 2017, disclosed at a public hearing that the FBI officially classified the shooting as “suicide by cop.”
Mr. Wenstrup told The Washington Times on Sunday that the FBI changed Hodgkinson’s classification because he and other Republicans had protested that the bureau was minimizing an attack on the country’s legislative branch as the personal act of a troubled man.
“It’s definitely a result of the actions we’ve taken the last few weeks,” Mr. Wenstrup said.
He said FBI Director Christoper A. Wray telephoned him Friday and said, “I’ve got some news I want to share. We have looked at this again, and we are reclassifying it.”
At the same time, the FBI sent Mr. Wenstrup a letter that said, “The FBI considers the Simpson Field shooting an act of domestic terrorism under the umbrella of domestic violent extremism.”
The terrorism report, produced jointly with the Department of Homeland Security, recounts the Hodgkinson attack this way: “An individual with a personalized violent ideology targeted and shot Republican members of Congress at a baseball field and wounded five people.”
Hodgkinson, a left-wing activist from Illinois who had come to Alexandria with a rifle, a pistol and hundreds of rounds of ammunition, wounded two U.S. Capitol Police officers among the five. They were stationed inconspicuously nearby, as is protocol for a congressional leader: in this case, then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican.
From behind the third-base dugout, Hodgkinson fired at Mr. Scalise, who was standing near second base, and hit him in the hip. After he was rushed to a hospital, Mr. Scalise lay in intensive care and required surgery. He remained hospitalized for six weeks.
If the two Capitol Police officers had not engaged Hodgkinson in the first minute, Republicans said, he would have had time to hunt and kill a number of them before Alexandria police arrived.
Hodgkinson fired more than 70 rounds from 7:09 a.m. to 7:14 a.m., when he was mortally wounded.
Mr. Wenstrup, an Army Reserve colonel who performed combat surgeries in Iraq, immediately attended to Mr. Scalise, who was suffering from internal bleeding. Mr. Wenstrup quickly recognized that the bullet traveled to vital organs and Mr. Scalise was losing blood. He administered a high-leg tourniquet.
The Army awarded Mr. Wenstrup a Soldier’s Medal for bravery.
The FBI’s May 14 letter to Mr. Wenstrup said: “The FBI commends your heroism in rendering life-saving aid to Representative Scalise after he was shot and severely injured during the Congressional baseball practice.”
At the April 15 hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Mr. Wenstrup released a letter calling on Mr. Wray to reinvestigate the shooting and to conduct an internal probe of how the FBI reached the “suicide by cop” verdict.
Mr. Wenstrup said Saturday in a statement: “Our intelligence and law enforcement apparatuses require accuracy, precision, and justice. I’m encouraged that the FBI has updated its classification of that nearly catastrophic event to reflect the actual motives of the assailant, and I commend Director Wray for his oversight of that correction. I will continue to work with the Bureau toward investigating what led to the original ‘suicide by cop’ determination.”
A factor in Mr. Wenstrup’s decision to raise the issue: The Biden administration has made domestic extremism a front-window issue since supporters of outgoing President Trump rioted Jan. 6 at the U.S. Capitol.
The Pentagon is now hunting for extremists in the ranks. Conservatives fear a redefinition of domestic extremism would place any Trump supporter under suspicion.
Republicans say Democrats are painting domestic extremism as a right-wing phenomenon. Hodgkinson was an outspoken critic of Republicans, as were many of the Black Lives Matter and Antifa supporters who took part in a summer of riots last year over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Mr. Wenstrup and other Republicans have grown suspicious of FBI motives, given that the bureau investigated the Trump campaign for it called Russian election collusion. The FBI relied on a Democratic Party-financed dossier sourced to the Kremlin and targeted Trump allies based on the rarely enforced Foreign Agents Registration Act.