Return to Transcripts main page


Congress Reacts to Baseball Field Shooting; Interview With Ohio Congressman Brad Wenstrup; Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 14, 2017 - 16:30   ET





We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's bring in Ohio Congress Congressman Brad Wenstrup, who was on that baseball field at the time. He's also an Army Reserve officer and a medical doctor.

Congressman, first of all, we're so glad you're OK. Thanks so much for joining us. How are you doing?

REP. BRAD WENSTRUP (R), OHIO: I'm doing fine, thank you. I did feel a little bit like I was back in Iraq, but without the same assets around me.

TAPPER: Well, you say that. You served in Iraq as an Army surgeon. You said what happened today reminded you of being in Iraq. Take us back to the moment when you first heard the gunshots. How long did it take for you to figure out what was going on?

WENSTRUP: Pretty quickly, because I was down in the batting cages, and I heard that, and I thought that that sounded like rifle fire.

And then Trent Kelly, who was at third base and closest to the shooter, who fortunately missed Trent Kelly, yelled, shooter. He's also a Guardsman, National Guardsman and an Iraq War veteran as well and a colonel in the Army. And he yelled shooter. And that alerted people pretty quickly.

But I think it was confusing, because you couldn't imagine that this could actually be happening, but it was, unfortunately.

TAPPER: And you tended the wounds of Congressman Steve Scalise. During the attack, it sounds like you went straight into physician mode.

How was he holding up during that moment of shock that he must have been going through?

WENSTRUP: Yes, he was doing well.

Now, he was talking. He would answer all my questions. I was concerned about fluid loss internally. I found his entry wound, but didn't find an exit wound. And that concerned me greatly. So even though we were able to stop the bleeding externally, I was concerned what was going on inside.

So we were getting him water, Gatorade, whatever we could to keep some fluids in him and wanted to get an I.V. as soon as possible, which we didn't have, unfortunately.

TAPPER: He was shot in the hip, in the left hip, the right hip?

WENSTRUP: The left hip, yes, sir.

TAPPER: And you didn't find an exit wound, which obviously is very concerning.

We learned moments ago that Congressman Scalise is in critical condition. As a medical doctor, could you describe to us what that might mean?

WENSTRUP: Well, it may mean that it hit some internal organs or large vessels. Since it didn't exit, I was making somewhat the assumption that it hit his hip bone, and -- but it may have ricocheted, moved from there.

You're always concerned about hitting a large vessel, especially in that area. And I couldn't really tell the angle of the entry wound, so I don't know if it traversed upwards and into some of his internal organs.

And that's my concern. And we're praying for Steve, but he was able to answer everything when I was with him. And he was extremely strong. You know, you mentioned one other thing before. Who knows what the situation would have been if it weren't for those Capitol Police there, who did a tremendous job?

And when it first started, you didn't know if it was one shooter or two shooters, and they took their position, and they operated methodically and did an extremely good job, as well as getting hurt and finishing their job.

TAPPER: Yes, Senator Rand Paul said that if those two officers hadn't been there, it might have been a massacre. I assume you agree?

WENSTRUP: Yes, you had people fenced in. Everyone was in a fence.

The man, in my opinion, knew what he was doing, had been there before, had seen the setup, because he started at a position of advantage beyond the third base dugout, and no one is over there. Everyone is on the first base side, and I was along the first base line.

I could see him. Then he went behind the dugout and then he came closer to home plate on the other end of the dugout, shot from there. Then he went behind a building that's behind home plate, and came around the back of that, all the while coming closer to all the people that were there and taking their escape route and hiding behind trees or whatever they could do, taking cover.

And then he went back behind the building and he came out at that point, after exhausting a lot of ammunition with his rifle, and at that point he had a handgun and that's when they were able to take him down and that's when I was able to run out to Mr. Scalise.

TAPPER: And the four other individuals were injured. One of the Capitol Hill police officers, I believe, was shot. Another one was injured in the melee. And then somebody, a lobbyist, a government affairs director of Tyson Foods, I think, who practices with you was also injured, and then a staffer, a congressional aide.

Do you know how any of them are doing?

WENSTRUP: No, I think what I have heard is they are all doing better. The one that really had the most severe-looking injury, from what I understand, is the young man. And he -- apparently, it missed his heart, thank God.

And I didn't know who else was hurt, because if you picture the scenario, the field emptied, yet there's Steve Scalise laying out there on the infield by himself. And God only knows what was going through his mind as he's hearing this gunplay go on for about 10 minutes, and he can't go anywhere.


TAPPER: And where were you at this point? Your other colleague, Congressman Mike Bishop, said that you were all sitting ducks.

WENSTRUP: Well, we really were in so many ways, if not for the fact that the Capitol Hill Police were there, because he was moving in towards us, towards our only escape route.

And so Steve Scalise was a sitting duck. Everyone was basically a sitting duck in many ways. There were only so many places you could go, especially when leaving the field. So he never got as far as he would have liked, I'm quite sure, but he was methodically moving everyone into one area, where he had hoped to, I believe, open fire on them.

But, again, thanks to the Capitol Hill Police, he was thwarted. Sadly, others were injured, and we're going to pray for them, and I know that they are fighting hard to get well.

TAPPER: Were Capitol Hill Police returning fire the whole time? How long did it take before they sprung into action?

WENSTRUP: Well, once they assessed the situation, which I would say was in like 30 seconds, they were trying to figure out, where is the shooting coming from, where should we position ourselves? And it's not like there was 100 of them, right? There's only a couple. And so they did a tremendous job in reacting quickly. And, you know, when you're out on the field, you don't have your phone with you. I don't know who finally could make 911 calls, but most of the players that were out there, they don't have phones to make the call.

So I would say that they acted pretty quickly. And, again, they don't know if it's one shooter or two when they got started, so they had to position themselves carefully.

TAPPER: Was the shooter saying anything while he was committing this atrocity?

WENSTRUP: Not that I'm aware. I wasn't close enough probably to hear him.

And there was so much gunfire, you couldn't hear anything but that, really. And, like I said, once he was taken down, that's when you saw some people spring into action. And around that time, there were police and emergency personnel arriving on the scene.

TAPPER: Congressman, we're so glad that you're OK.

WENSTRUP: Thank you.

TAPPER: And thank you so much. And Congressman Scalise is lucky that a physician was there. Thanks for sharing your story today.

WENSTRUP: Thank you, sir. Take care.

TAPPER: Appreciate it.

Also joining us right now is Mark Kelly. He's a retired astronaut and U.S. Navy captain, and also, of course, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She was the last member of Congress to be shot in 2011 in Tucson, Arizona.

It's so good to see you, Commander.

I have to say, a situation like this must cause a post-traumatic stress response with you and Congresswoman Giffords, just because it's so familiar.

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Well, certainly, for me, it brings back a lot of the memories from that day in January of 2011, what happened to Gabby, and, you know, what I thought about after that.

Gabby being, you know, shot first, she doesn't remember a lot from that day, but she's not going to forget this day. You know, to see -- to wake up in the morning here and see what happened to her colleagues and her friends is, you know, something natural makes her very sad and we're thinking about all those folks that were injured, especially the congressman and the Capitol Police who were so heroic today.

TAPPER: Your wife sent a tweet this morning that says -- quote -- "My heart is the with my former colleagues, their families and staff and the U.S. Capitol Police, public servants and heroes today and every day."

Have you spoken with your wife about the shooting today?

KELLY: Oh, absolutely.

I mean, we were here in New York City. We got in late. We're on West Coast time, so, when this happened, it was pretty early in the morning. And I woke her up by turning the TV on because I saw what happened on my phone.

She wasn't too happy about that. And then she -- you know, she saw the reason why I had turned on the TV. And, you know, for her, having experienced something like this in her district, to see this happen again with her colleagues on the other side of the aisle is -- you know, it's completely -- it's unacceptable. It's sad.

It's -- it's -- you know, it really -- you know, I say it hit her pretty hard.

TAPPER: You and she have devoted so much time in your lives really towards trying to end this type of violence from happening in this country.

A day like today must be very frustrating, in particular for people, but for the last U.S. member of Congress to be attacked in a similar way and her husband.

KELLY: Yes, but, you know, we're not thinking about the politics of this issue at this time.

We're thinking about her former colleague, the Capitol Police, the two other individuals that were injured. We're thinking about their families and what this is like for them. We have experienced this ourselves, and I can tell you it's a tough process to go through.

I have been tweeting or texting a little bit with Senator Flake, who was there today. I talked to him earlier today. You know, he's going through this essentially a second time. He's at the hospital now.

He was at the hospital when this happened to Gabby, you know, so this is going to be tough on some of her colleagues. But I think, you know, now is the time to think about them and their families. And that's what Gabby and I are doing today.


TAPPER: What advice do you have for people like Jeff Flake or other survivors about how to deal with the coming days and weeks?

KELLY: Well, I think, certainly, for, you know, folks that are injured, you know, they are going to have to deal with, you know, their medical and, you know, physical issues.

Thank God, you know, people were not so seriously injured. I think at least everybody -- I know some of the individuals are in critical condition, but from what I understand, they are going to survive, but they are going to have some challenges ahead.

They should know that there is a -- there's help out there. You know, for the post-traumatic stress, I'm no expert on that, but I'm sure Congress is going to provide some assistance for those individuals that are dealing with that.

TAPPER: Your wife in her tweet mentioned the heroism and the valor of the Capitol Hill Police.

Witnesses and fellow congressmen are saying that without them being there, this could have been a massacre. Are we now at this point in this country where congressmen and congresswomen have to have security with them if they go out in public?

KELLY: Well, I hope we're not, but, you know, when you saw what happened to Gabby and then, you know, what happened today, I mean, these things do happen.

I personally agree. I think, if Capitol Police wasn't there, from everything I know, this could be a lot worse. There could be a number of dead congressmen and dead senators if Capitol Police wasn't there to do something about this.

I think the situation -- you know, this situation and others that we have -- I mean, look, it's not on the news much today, but there was a mass shooting, from what I understand, in San Francisco today as well. These things seem to happen on a more regular basis.

I think we all agree that we have a problem in this country, and for problems, there are solutions. So, hopefully, both sides of the aisle can get together and figure out at least something that we can do to try to reduce the likelihood of these things happening.

TAPPER: I remember going to Tucson -- I was a member of the White House press corps -- and following President Obama as he participated in the event after your wife was shot and talked about the need for the country to -- for people to tone down the rhetoric and talk about reaching across the aisle, how we're all Americans.

There's a lot of talk like that today as well. You know, if you look at the social media page of the shooter, there's a lot of nasty, nasty attacks on Republicans, on President Trump.

Do you think that this call for an improved tenor and tone in American politics can actually happen, or do we just talk about it on days like today and then move on the next day?

KELLY: Well, I think it can happen, you know, if people are really motivated to make it happen.

I think it happened after what happened in Tucson, you know, for a little bit, but, you know, what people say really does matter. Gabby has always been somebody, that has worked to cross the aisle, has been friends with her Republican colleagues, and took the approach to her job always in an incredibly, you know, respectful manner, and never, you know, went down, that road to be incredibly partisan and nasty and bitter.

I think that's an important thing to do. I mean, we can accomplish so much more as a country if we work together as a team and work in a bipartisan manner, and, you know, keep -- and what kind of example?

This is an opportunity for people to set an example for, you know, their children and grandchildren on how we can, you know, come together and be better after a horrible incident.

TAPPER: Commander Mark Kelly, thank you so much.

Please tell your wife that we say hello and that we're thinking about her, especially today.

KELLY: I will do that, and thanks for having me on, Jake. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: Thank you.

Congressman Roger Williams was at baseball practice this morning when the shooter opened fire. His aide Zack Barth was shot and is said to be in critical condition.

Let's take a listen.

REP. ROGER WILLIAMS (R), TEXAS: I want to thank you all very much.

My name is Roger Williams. I represent the 25th District of Texas in the United States Congress, and I also help coach the Republican congressional baseball team.

This morning, as you know, we were attacked by a gunman at our press conference. There will be those who talk about what's wrong with America, but, in this case, officers Griner and Bailey, we saw what's right with America.

We saw two people risk their lives to save the lives of others. We saw courage in the face of death, and we saw examples of why all Americans should be grateful every day for law enforcement officers around this country. There could have easily been 25 deaths or more today. I think we had 25 team players and about 15 staff, but officers Griner and Bailey prevented that, and my family and I will be forever grateful. The thin blue line held today, and law enforcement officers everywhere should be proud. And Americans everywhere should be thankful that this is still the kind of country that still produces these kinds of heroes. So I ask everybody to join me in praying for the victims and for their full recoveries before you go to bed tonight. I'll be happy to take some questions.

I would briefly just tell you my story. I was on the third base side hitting ground balls to Trent Kelly and Ron DeSantis. Little did I know that the perpetrator was probably 20 yards from me. I went around the first base side to hit Congressman Scalise ground balls. I did that. The first one I hit him, the shots went off. I heard the first shot, and I wasn't sure. I thought maybe it was the backfiring of a car but in the second and the third and everybody yelled, "He's got a gun. Run for cover." And that's what I did and fortunately, I was on the first base side and just emotions take over. I ran to the first base dugout which has got a - which is in the ground about seven feet, and I literally dove into that - into that dugout. It would be like diving, I guess, into a swimming pool with no water, but I did. And in there were my other colleagues - some of my other colleagues.

Zack Barth who works for me was shot while he was retrieving balls in the outfield. When I got into the dugout, it wasn't 10 seconds then Zack had come running in from the outfield and he literally -- we landed in each other's arms. He held me, I held him. Jeff Flake took his belt off and made a tourniquet around Zack's leg to stop the bleeding. You know, I remember -- and Chuck Fleischmann was on the phone to 911 screaming to hurry up and get here. Jack Barton, Joe's son was in the dugout with us, and we were all taking care of him. Just trying to take care of each other. There was a lot - a lot of heroes today among my friends. It's something I will not forget. It seemed like it went forever. The police say they got there in about three or four minutes, and I'm sure that that's the case, but it's a long time. They say 60 shots were fired.

But without our Capitol Police who took - literally took a step forward when they didn't have to. They could have stepped backwards. They stepped forward. They saved all of us out there. There is no question about it. We had no arms. All we had was bats and the shooter. But I'm praying for Whip Scalise, the policemen, Mika, and then my young man that works for us in our office, Zack, who will be fine. So with that, I'll be glad to take some questions, if you have any. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What can you tell us about Steve Scalise's condition? Have you talked to him?

WILLIAMS: I have not talked to him but I understand all the reports that I get that he's doing well, out of surgery. I'm not a doctor, but all reports are he's going to make a full recovery. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, you came in with crutches from an injury today, were you?

[16:49:44] WILLIAMS: Yes, I forgot about that. I guess when I dove into the dugout, I had done something. I've been to the hospital in Alexandria, they took really good care of me. I want to thank the nurses and the doctors. I'll be going back to Texas after the game tomorrow night to let my doctors see what they need to do as far as my ankle and my leg and my feet, but that's the injury I have. It's an ankle-leg injury that they have got me going to where I can move around and be OK tomorrow at the game, and then I'll go home tomorrow night to get fixed, but everybody did what they needed to do. A lot of brave people serve in the United States Congress. Yes, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you elaborate on your staffer's condition? Senator Barton said he was released from the hospital.

WILLIAMS: He has been released from the hospital. He was shot in the leg. He was in the outfield. I give him credit. I think Zack is probably 23, 24. All the time he was bleeding, we were under fire, he was texting. He was texting, letting people know we were under fire, and that we needed help, so he's doing great. Vice President Pence has spoken to him. I'm grateful for that, for his talking to - talking to Zack, so he's on the road to recovery. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, will the team plan on having practice tomorrow morning? I know the game is still set to go on, but what about practice?

WILLIAMS: Well, some of us are on the injured reserve list right now, but I think we were supposed to have a breakfast tomorrow. That's been cancelled, I believe, and I believe what we will have is a get there a little early tomorrow night and have a - maybe have a prayer - a little prayer service or something and then play baseball, and if you're not sure which one I'll be - I'll be the one coaching third on crutches, OK, but we plan - yes we're going to play. We need to play. This is a game that's been going on for over 100 years. It goes to charity, and we need to play this baseball game, and so I'm excited that we decided to do that. The speaker, I talked to the speaker today about that and I told him I felt like we should play. And I know he talked to Congressman Doyle and Congressman Barton and we all agreed we need to play baseball so -

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you followed through that thought (INAUDIBLE). Why is it important to get out there and play tomorrow?

WILLIAMS: That's a great question. I think it's important because I think these people that want to destroy our lives and livelihood here in America, they win if we give in. America doesn't give out. America doesn't give in, and we must play this baseball game. If we play - if we don't play this baseball game and we go home, then they win. So that's the reason. This is America, the greatest country in the world. If you punch us, we will punch back and we're going to play baseball tomorrow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, Mike Bishop described the situation here as he said, quote, "we were sitting ducks." Guns saved our lives. Can you comment on that as far as what - as far as what you were feeling in this?

WILLIAMS: Well, it took the second shot for me to understand what was happening and hearing everybody, and we were sitting ducks. I mean, we had - we had nothing to fight back with but bats if it got to that. We were sitting ducks. I think he was not able to get on the field because the gate was locked on the other side. If he had gotten on the field, it could have been a bad situation, but he wasn't able to do that, but we were sitting ducks. I mean, you've got 40 people on a baseball stadium field at 7:00 in the morning. He just decided to shoot, and so Bishop is right when we said that. That was a god way to say it in the back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you sure whether Scalise was hit with that first bullet that was shot? Did it seem like anybody was struck with that bullet, maybe your staffer? And also you were also pretty emotional off the top when you're talking about officers Griner and Bailey, and I wonder if you had a chance to catch up with them and thank them for you said saving lives?

WILLIAMS: I haven't personally thanked them. I will be, but I'm thanking them again right here. They saved everybody's life. They literally did that. And you know, I represent Ft. Hood, and they teach the military to take a step forward, not a step back when you're in combat and these guys and gals did it. So it is emotional. It's an emotional day and it and when you think about your family, you think about your friends, you're thinking about being in that position, it's emotional.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know who was shot with that first -

[16:54:58] WILLIAMS: You know, I don't know. I've heard and I have no backup to this but the first shot we all heard was actually shot at Trent Kelly who was at third base. And then Trent ran so I don't know which bullet got who. I don't know which one got Zack or Steve. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congressman, how do you feel about your personal security after what happened today, and what do you think should change around members' personal security?

WILLIAMS: Well, I frankly haven't thought about it. I know there's a lot of conversation if we should have security or what as individual congress people. It's a - you know, it's a -- it's in a job that you're very - people are very aware of you and where you were. I think we need to think about it, although I thought Speaker Gingrich put it well today when he said, one of the great things about having elected government is you can talk to your elected officials. And when you're in Congress we represent about 800,000 people in our district and some didn't vote fours, some did and we represent all of them, and it's a slice of America, and people need to be able to talk to us. So I think it's a dialogue we're going to have, but we want to be able to keep. We have open government but I will tell you, I'll be frank with you, I mean, here I am a Congressman and, you know, every now and then you would like to have a friend on one side of you, but I haven't decided that. I do think - I believe in open government. I thought Speaker Gingrich really put it well today when he talked about that. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned that the current political climate is encouraging violence, and if so, what do you think Americans should do about it?

WILLIAMS: Well, I know - I don't know if I want to talk about that today. I don't know this person. Evidently, he had an issue. I don't think it wasn't a democratic or republican issue. He has just had an issue. Nobody condones this. I do think candidly that our rhetoric in this country could be turned down a little bit, the tone could be turned down a little bit but that's what we have to - we have to work on and continue to talk about it. Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think security plans for game tomorrow are going to be altered, or will there be an increasing amount of officers? WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, I don't know what the plan was, to begin with, but I would - I would think that - I'm hoping since it's a charity we'll have more people than we would have. You know, we normally have 25,000 people at this game. Nats Stadium holds 50. Maybe we'll have 50,000 there tomorrow. That would challenge security, but I don't know. But I'm not worried about that because we have the best security people as I said earlier. Anyway, they're going to do the right thing. Everybody, not just the congress people, but everybody will be protected, and to the extent, they need to be so I don't worry about that. I hope we have - I hope we have a lot more people at the game.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us about how Mika is doing?

WILLIAMS: Well, I've only heard again. Mika, a lovely man, a friend of all of ours. I think he was shot in the torso area, and so I've heard that just through his family that his condition is improving and everybody is praying for Mika.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Williams, back to the security situation, do you think in this particular instance anything could have been done differently while recognizing the huge heroism of the two police officers (INAUDIBLE). And let me ask you this because I've heard other members say this. Would you feel safer if you had the ability to carry gun, including on Capitol premises and other places where the general public is allowed?

WILLIAMS: Well, remember two things. First of all, I'm for the second amendment, big second amendment guy and I'm from Texas so, yes, I would have felt a lot more comfortable if we were able to do that, OK. What was the other -

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the security situation, do you believe - while recognizing the heroism of the officers do you think what more could have been done or should think -

WILLIAM: Well, look, in in retrospect - in retrospect, and I thought about this, this morning. If you have 25 Congressmen in a very small group and you want to harm somebody, that is a pretty good way to do it, and I'm not so sure that in the future at least if we had that situation again that this is me talking, that we probably ought to take a look at our security on those that are there in big groups like that. I think that might be important. So, but, look it. We've been playing this game, I've been in it now for six years I guess and we practice every morning at six to eight. Every morning. We have fun, no problems.