In the two months that he was living out of his van in suburban Virginia, the suspected gunman in this week’s attack on gathered congressmen twice emailed Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to express his political views, McClatchy has learned.
Belleville resident James “Tom” Hodgkinson, killed Wednesday during his attack on unsuspecting lawmakers and staff, had reached out to Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, to voice his opinions.
“He contacted our office to state his opinion on a variety of issues over the years, twice during that timeframe (from late March to this week),” Ben Marter, a spokesman for Durbin, confirmed Friday. “Never in person — just constituent emails.”
The emails came via the contact page on Sen. Durbin’s website and not as an individual email to any particular staffer, Marter said, adding that all emails from Hodgkinson to Durbin have since been shared with the U.S. Capitol Police and could not be made available.
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The office of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a recently elected Democrat from Illinois, said her office also had received communication from Hodgkinson.
Duckworth’s office said Hodgkinson “had contacted our office through our website several times to express his opinion as a constituent, but provided no reason for alarm. We’ve forwarded his correspondence to the Capitol Police.”
Illinois has just one congressman on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, and Hodgkinson, who family members describe as obsessed with questions of fairness in the tax code, did not appear to have reached out to him.
“We do not have any record of interaction with him,” confirmed David Mork, a spokesman for Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill.
Hodgkinson also did not appear to have contacted the Ways and Means chairman, Texas Republican Kevin Brady, or any other committee member.
The FBI and assisting police agencies have said little about the possible motives for the shocking attack on the Republican lawmakers, who were meeting shortly after sunup Wednesday for baseball practice, a day before an annual and popular charity game that features congressional Republicans and Democrats facing off.
Postings by Hodgkinson on Facebook and other social media suggest he harbored disdain for President Donald J. Trump and opposed the tax policies of the Republican Party.
Former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a self-described independent socialist who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016, confirmed earlier this week that Hodgkinson had volunteered for his campaign.
There have been no FBI updates since a confirmation Thursday that the gunman’s phone, laptop computer and camera had all been seized from his van, parked near the scene of the shooting.
An FBI spokeswoman Friday declined to say whether Hodgkinson had tried to erase his hard drive or emails, or whether the phone logs had provided any leads about whether he received any assistance or pre-planning. Neighbors and gym members in the affluent Alexandria neighborhood where he’d been living in his van near the YMCA said Hodgkinson did not appear to be homeless, but that he always sat alone when going for a meal or a beer.
The spokeswoman confirmed that a hotline and posters seeking more details on the gunman had generated tips that agents are now following up.