Did FBI really conclude that 2017 shooting attack on House members was "suicide by cop"?

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

If so, small wonder they kept that idiotic take to themselves for the past four years. As Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) chided FBI director Christopher Wray, it doesn’t take 136 bullets aimed at members of Congress to generate a lethal police response. It also flies in the face of findings by other government agencies, Westrup said in a Thursday hearing upbraiding the FBI, as Politico reports this afternoon:

A congressman who was on the baseball field during the 2017 shooting that nearly killed GOP Whip Steve Scalise says the FBI privately informed lawmakers it ruled the attack a “suicide by cop,” a designation he said downplayed the shooter’s apparently political motivation. …

“Much to our shock that day, the FBI concluded that this was a case of the attacker seeking suicide by cop,” Wenstrup said. “Director, you want suicide by cop, you just pull a gun on a cop. It doesn’t take 136 rounds. It takes one bullet. Both the DHS and the (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) published products labeling this attack as a domestic violent extremism event, specifically targeting Republican members of Congress. The FBI did not.”

As Kyle Cheney and Martin Matishak note, that opinion was not limited to the federal government. The commonwealth of Virginia conducted a use-of-force review, and prosecutors there also concluded that this was a case of domestic terrorism by a deranged radical nutcase. The facts outlined make the idea that this was merely an attempt to get shot look absurd:

The evidence in this case establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the suspect, fueled by rage against Republican legislators, decided to commit an act of terrorism as that term is defined by the Code of Virginia. See Va. Code §18.46.4.4 The suspect, using a lawfully-purchased assault rifle and handgun, ambushed a peaceful assembly of people practicing baseball and began to fire indiscriminately in an effort to kill and maim as many people as possible.

As the suspect began to shoot at the people practicing, he was almost immediately engaged by SA Bailey, who entered the baseball field and returned fire at risk to his own safety. Bailey’s courageous act helped avert disaster by “pinning down” the suspect and apparently causing him to alter his plans.

The suspect then walked south towards the area behind home plate to engage and to try to neutralize SA Bailey and SA Griner. The suspect continued to fire his assault rifle at Bailey and Griner from behind a position of cover. However, Griner and Bailey continued to engage the suspect, preventing him from freely moving about. Even after being seriously wounded, Griner managed to return fire and to help an injured person, Mr. Mika, who was lying next to the black SUV. Griner and Bailey willingly and courageously drew the suspect’s fire towards their position and thereby prevented him from focusing on the unarmed people hiding on the baseball field and in the dugouts. Griner and Bailey’s heroic actions also bought time for Alexandria Police to arrive on the scene and join the firefight.

Does that sound like someone whose motive was just to get shot and killed? If that were the case, the perp wouldn’t have changed positions repeatedly to avoid fire and to find new shooting lanes to neutralize police fire. The Virginia report reaches the obvious conclusion about the shooter’s motives:

The agents and police officers who engaged the suspect were confronted with a suspect who determinedly and repeatedly engaged in deadly force against a group of innocent, unarmed baseball players. When engaged by the agents and the responding Alexandria Police officers, the suspect trained his fire on them. The suspect’s intent, which can be clearly inferred from his conduct, was to shoot the agents and officers so that he could return to killing and maiming the unarmed people on the baseball field.

This was so obvious, in fact, that prosecutor Bryan Porter had to include this statement as to why he conducted the review in the first place:

The facts presented in this case are so clear-cut and so obviously required the agents and officers to use deadly force that one might question why my office even conducted this review. The answer is self-evident: the facts cannot be considered “clear-cut” until their totality is known and sufficiently analyzed.

Apparently, there’s nothing so obvious that it can’t be obfuscated at some point. Wray never did explain how the FBI came to the “suicide by cop” conclusion, but he did note that he wasn’t at the FBI at the time. The acting director was Andrew McCabe, who arguably had a few political axes to grind by the summer of 2017 regarding Republicans.

To their credit, however, House Democrats in this hearing scoffed at that explanation as much as the House Republicans:

Wenstrup’s criticism of the bureau’s different conclusion — which he supplemented with a letter to Wray — drew notes of support from Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence panel.

“I actually would like to associate my — your comments with my interest in wanting to pursue that as well, Dr. Wenstrup,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.).

“I’d like to second Dr. Wenstrup’s questions on the near massacre of our colleagues in 2017,” added Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.). “So I, like my colleague, Jackie Speier, have a particular interest in that.”

Kudos to Cooper and Speier, who has tragic experience with insane political terrorism. Speier was shot when a congressional delegation went to Jonestown to investigate allegations of mind control and abuse. Speier was an aide to Rep. Leo Ryan at that time, the congressman who got murdered as the delegation and reporters tried to board a plane to leave. The attack on the delegation touched off the mass murder of/suicide by followers of Jim Jones. If anyone has reason to scoff at this conclusion other than the victims of the 2017 attack, it’s Speier.

Let’s hope that Rep. Wenstrup gets a better answer from Wray, and that the FBI revisits its conclusions. Soon.

Addendum: Steve Scalise isn’t at all happy with the FBI on this point either: