By Susan Cornwell and David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Steve Scalise’s condition has improved but remained critical on Thursday, a day after a man who had expressed anger toward President Donald Trump opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice.
Trump on Thursday reiterated his call for unity in the aftermath of the shooting in the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia. But Nancy Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House of Representatives, criticized some Republicans who have blamed the shooting on vitriol from the political left.
Scalise, a congressman from Louisiana who is the No. 3 House Republican, suffered injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding after being shot in the left hip on a baseball field where he and other lawmakers were practicing for a charity baseball game.
Scalise underwent a second surgery for internal injuries and a broken leg – his third procedure overall – and remained in critical condition but had shown improvement, MedStar Washington Hospital Center said in a statement on Thursday.
Scalise, 51, and three others were wounded when a man identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, from the St. Louis suburb of Belleville, Illinois, opened fire on the lawmakers. The others wounded were a police officer, a congressional aide and a lobbyist.
Hodgkinson, who had a history of posting angry messages against Trump and other Republicans on social media, died after being wounded by police.
The U.S. Capitol Police said Hodgkinson used a 9 mm handgun and a 7.62-caliber rifle in the shooting, and traces run by investigators showed he evidently acquired the weapons legally.
“Both were purchased by the shooter from federal firearms licensees,” the Capitol Police said in a statement. “We currently have no evidence to suggest that the purchases were not lawful.”
The FBI recovered a cellphone, computer and camera from Hodgkinson’s van and was examining them for evidence, the statement said.
Trump, who visited Scalise at the hospital on Wednesday, said the congressman was “in some trouble but he’s going to be okay, we hope.”
“It’s been much more difficult than people even thought at the time,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday, adding he also visited the wounded Capitol Police officer at the hospital.
Vice President Mike Pence earlier on Thursday said he visited the hospital where Scalise was being treated.
Republican members of Congress played their Democratic colleagues in a charity game on Thursday night at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team, with thousands of spectators attending.
The lawmakers took the field with many wearing hats to honor Scalise. When the members of the Republican team were announced, mention of Scalise’s name drew a standing ovation throughout the stadium.
The shooting has raised questions about lawmakers’ security, renewed the nation’s contentious debate over guns and drawn new attention to the harsh rhetoric that reflects America’s political polarization.
Trump, in a video message played at the game, said the event had “a much deeper level of meaning” because of the shooting.
“In Washington we have our disagreements, but we all agree that we are here to serve this nation we love and the people who call it home,” Trump said. “That’s the source of unity and more than ever we must embrace it.”
PELOSI CRITICIZES REPUBLICANS
Many lawmakers in both parties called for unity after the shooting. But at a news conference, Pelosi bristled at comments made by a few Republicans and conservative activists who blamed heated Democratic rhetoric for the incident.
“The comments made by my Republican colleagues are outrageous, beneath the dignity of the job that they hold, beneath the dignity of the respect that we would like Congress to command. How dare they say such a thing,” Pelosi said.
She said Republican vitriol and caricatures of her had resulted in “calls to my home constantly, threats in front of my family, really predicated on their comments and their paid ads.”
Pelosi also cited past remarks by Trump, saying: “You have a president who says: ‘I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and nobody would care.'”
She did not specify which comments by Republicans she objected to.
Among others, Republican Representative Steve King wrote on Twitter that “violence is incited by the leading cultural voices of the Left” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich cited an “increasing hostility on the left.”
(Reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell; Additional reporting by David Morgan, Steve Holland, Tom Polansek and Amanda Becker; Writing by Susan Heavey and Eric Beech; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney)