Trump calls for unity after shooting targeting lawmakers

Pence offers prayers for Scalise, praise for police officers

Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican shot Wednesday during congressional baseball practice, remains in critical condition "but has improved in the last 24 hours", MedStar Washington Hospital announced Thursday. He was hit in the left hip, suffering injuries to internal organs, broken bones and severe bleeding, in Wednesday's shooting.

Interest in the charity baseball game has skyrocketed in the aftermath of the shooting, as staffers and lawmakers look to rally around Scalise and the three others who were shot: a congressional staffer, a lobbyist and a Capitol Police special agent.

Members of the U.S. Congress took the field for their traditional Republicans vs. Democrats baseball game on Thursday, with many wearing hats to honor Representative Steve Scalise, who was critically wounded by a gunman as his Republican team practiced a day before.

Hospital officials said it is hard to predict how long the congressman will be in the hospital, but that he is expected to be able to walk and hopefully run after a period of rehabilitation.

So far, investigators have not linked Hodgkinson to any radical groups, said a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly.

"The Congressional Baseball Game has never been about Republicans against Democrats", said Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., in an opinion piece he wrote for CNN before the game. He is the House's No. 3 GOP leader. Scalise is a member of the team and had been fielding balls at second base in preparation for the game when he was shot. The wounded Capitol Police officers were identified as David Bailey, who was treated for a minor injury, and Crystal Griner, who was shot in the ankle.

"Baseball is the American game, to be able to play it, and that's why we have to play this game tonight", said Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, who injured his ankle in the chaos Wednesday and will watch from the third-base coaching box.

The FBI said it was investigating the shooter's "activities and social media impressions" in the months leading up to the attack. A congressional staffer, Zach Barth, was shot in the leg; he was released from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, the Post reports. "I'm prayerful he will pull through, and I hope he does", he said. "How dare they say such a thing!"

President Donald Trump said Friday that Steve Scalise "took a bullet for all of us". Both had appeared on the House floor earlier Thursday. This year, Payne said, has weightier importance. The other congress members present credit Mr Scalise's security guards - members of the Capitol Police - with saving their lives.

The charity game, pitting Republican lawmakers against their Democratic colleagues, was set to proceed as scheduled at 7:05 p.m. (2300 GMT) at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball team, with thousands of spectators expected in the stands.

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 polarisation.

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