Washington, D.C. — Rep. Chris Stewart, who sits on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, said Tuesday on a national radio program he “would be shocked if there weren’t others involved” in the attack on patrons at an Orlando gay club early Sunday.
Radio host Hugh Hewitt interviewed the congressman and Stewart’s office provided a transcript of the interview to St. George News. You can listen to the whole interview here.
The Associated Press is reporting that investigators continue to gather information on the 29-year-old American-born Muslim — and are taking a close look at his wife, too — for clues to the attack that left 49 victims dead. The massacre has been called the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The murky picture of Orlando gunman Omar Mateen grew more complex Tuesday with word that the FBI is investigating whether he had been a regular at the gay dance club he attacked and had been leading a secret life as a gay man.
An official who was briefed on the progress of the case but insisted on anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation said authorities believe Mateen’s wife knew about the plot ahead of time, but they are reluctant to charge her on that basis alone.
A number of possible explanations and motives for the bloodbath have emerged, with Mateen professing allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call during the attack, his ex-wife saying he was mentally ill, and his father suggesting he was driven by hatred of gays.
In Tuesday’s radio interview, Stewart said it is naive to believe that Mateen acted alone or that by enacting more gun control laws terrorists would stop targeting innocent people.
“I’ve said about a dozen times now in different interviews, does anyone believe any longer that as long as ISIS exists that we won’t continue to have these attacks, because I simply don’t believe that. As long as ISIS exists as it does, and is as powerful and as growing as they are, how long will it be until we have another attack like this here in the United States?” Stewart said. “And we’ve got to have leadership that’s willing to actually confront them, and to confine them, and to destroy them. And we just haven’t had that type of commitment from our executive, yet.”
The attack early Sunday ended with Mateen being shot to death by a SWAT team. Of the 53 people wounded, six were listed in critical condition Tuesday and five others were in guarded condition.
In Washington, President Barack Obama said investigators had no information to suggest a foreign terrorist group directed the attack. He said it was increasingly clear the killer “took in extremist information and propaganda over the internet. He appears to have been an angry, disturbed, unstable young man who became radicalized.”
Stewart said while more is being learned about the killer, there are currently more questions than answers available.
“We’re going to learn so much over the next few days, and we’ve learned quite a lot already. I mean, I can say that this individual didn’t wake up on Friday morning and radicalize himself in 24 hours. It’s a much longer process than that. Speaking of myself, I’ll be shocked if there weren’t others involve with this,” Stewart said in the radio interview. “I’ll be even more surprised if there weren’t some people around him that weren’t, to some level, aware of his intentions and could have warned us.”
The FBI has recovered Mateen’s phone and will use location data to verify whether he previously visited the club, the Associated Press reports.
Investigators working to determine whether anyone had advance knowledge of the attack have spoken extensively with Mateen’s wife, Noor Salman, and are working to establish whether she and Mateen were recently at or inside the club, the official said. The official said investigators have not ruled out charging others, including Mateen’s wife.
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Rep. Chris Stewart’s congressional office provided the Hugh Hewitt radio interview transcript and link to the interview.
Associated Press writers JAY REEVES, ERIC TUCKER, ALLEN G. BREED, TAMARA LUSH, HOLBROOK MOHR, and LINDSEY TANNER contributed to this report.