Government officials on Tuesday briefed key lawmakers on the deadly shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and are slated to provide more updates on Wednesday.
The closed-door briefings provided by Army and FBI officials on Tuesday did little to quell a widening partisan chasm over Congress’s role in the investigations.
Some House Republicans, who had previously complained about not being adequately briefed, escalated their criticisms after meeting with government investigators.
President Barack Obama warned Congress on Saturday not to turn the shooting into “political theater.” The Senate Armed Services Committee subsequently postponed its scheduled closed-door hearing with Secretary of the Army John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff George Casey.
The panel’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), said on Tuesday that lawmakers have to be “cautious not to interfere with a criminal investigation” into the shooting that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded. Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan has been charged with murder in the Nov. 5 incident.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the Armed Services panel ranking member and Obama’s former presidential rival, told reporters Tuesday that the classified briefings have provided “some additional information,” but the picture won’t be complete until his committee holds the necessary hearings on the incident.
On the House side, Republicans unleashed a litany of accusations at the Democrats’ acquiescence to the administration’s wishes to delay hearings. Republicans charged that Democrats succumbed to what they described as an Obama administration pattern of basing national security decisions on political calculations.
Top Intelligence Committee Republicans, along with the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security panel, on Tuesday afternoon hammered the administration’s desire to suppress — even temporarily — congressional oversight of potential intelligence gaps.
“This is a systemic problem,” House Intelligence ranking member Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said at a Tuesday press conference. “We believe that this jeopardizes, in the future, our national security.”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), however, said he was fully supportive of waiting for executive branch investigators to do their jobs.
“We need to allow different agencies to conduct their investigations,” Reyes said.
Reyes called the administration’s request “appropriate,” although he refused to identify exactly where it came from.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the request came from the FBI, which led the Tuesday morning briefing of the top Democrats and Republicans on the three relevant committees, plus House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“They’ve asked us to give them the opportunity to look at all that’s occurred,” Thompson said. “And they said they’d come back at a future date.”