Speaking under a portrait of former President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated on April 14, 1865, President Obama today spoke about the shootings in Arizona of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and others, saying “what Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other so at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers. … We are going to get to the bottom of this and we’re going to get through this.”
The president Giffords is “currently at a hospital in the area and she is battling for her life.” He said the congresswoman, 40, first elected in 2006, “is as tough as they come and I am hopeful that she is going to pull through.”
Though Giffords is, according to the hospital, still alive, President Obama at one point said Giffords "was" a friend of his, perhaps reflecting the inaccurate reports that she had been killed.
The president said that at least 5 people lost their lives in the shooting, including Federal Judge John Roll and a young girl “who was barely 9 years old.” The suspect is currently in custody, he said, “but we don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act.”
At a little after 1:20 pm EST, President Obama was told about the Arizona shootings by White House counterterrorism and homeland security adviser John Brennan and White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina.
Starting at 3pm, the President made a number of phone calls and was then briefed in the Situation Room by Brennan and Messina as well as:
• FBI Director Robert Mueller,
• Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano,
• Attorney General Eric Holder,
• Incoming White House chief of staff Bill Daley,
• White House legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro,
• National Security Adviser Tom Donilon,
• White House senior adviser David Axelrod,
• White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer,
• White House scheduling director Alyssa Mastromonaco
• and a number of other senior White House officials.
President Obama asked FBI Director Mueller to travel to Arizona to personally oversee the coordination of this investigation; Mueller is en route.
The President phoned Representative Giffords’ husband, for whom he left a message.
To share information and express his concern, the president also phoned Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn, D-SC, and Representative Ed Pastor, D-Ariz.