The FBI – already facing congressional investigations over its handling of the Russia probe and other political matters – was hit this week with a new batch of inquiries from lawmakers about its failure to act on tips that might have prevented the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

On Friday, the chairs of three powerful congressional committees that oversee the bureau sent letters demanding briefings on the FBI’s misstep, and others lambasted the bureau for its apparent failure.

The bureau acknowledged that it received a warning on Jan. 5 that Nikolas Cruz had a desire to kill and might attack a school, but the information – from an adult close to Cruz – was not passed to agents in the field for investigation. Separately, in September, the bureau received a tip that a YouTube user with the screen name “nikolas cruz” had written “Im going to be a professional school shooter” in response to an online video, but investigators could not link the account to a person.

Cruz, 19, is accused of walking into Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday with a rifle and killing 17 people.


“The fact that the FBI is investigating this failure is not enough,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said in a statement. “Both the House and Senate need to immediately initiate their own investigations into the FBI’s protocols for ensuring tips from the public about potential killers are followed through. Lawmakers and law enforcement personnel constantly remind the public that ‘if you see something, say something.’ In this tragic case, people close to the shooter said something, and our system utterly failed the families of seventeen innocent souls.”

The FBI declined to comment on the various congressional requests.

While lawmakers and federal law enforcement officials assessed their response, state authorities were left to prepare for one of the state’s highest-profile prosecutions in recent memory. Michael Satz, the state attorney for Broward County, said Saturday that the incident was “the type of case the death penalty was designed for,” though his office would not formally announce whether it will seek such a sentence so families had time to mourn.

The incident comes at a precarious time for the FBI. Conservative lawmakers already had been reviewing the bureau’s handling of two hotly charged political matters: the probe of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election and the now-closed investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

President Trump has been highly critical of investigators’ actions in both of those cases, and some in the bureau have worried his persistent attacks might do lasting damage to the premier federal law enforcement agency’s reputation.

Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott seized on the FBI’s failure to investigate Cruz and called Friday for FBI Director Christopher Wray to resign.

“Seventeen innocent people are dead and acknowledging a mistake isn’t going to cut it,” Scott said in a statement.

Scott’s call, though, did not immediately seem to gain wide traction. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi a Republican who, like Scott, is an ally of Trump, said on Fox News, “The people who had that information and did not do anything with it, they are the ones that need to go.”

Republican leaders who oversee the FBI, while highly critical of the bureau, also did not immediately call for the director to step down.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., chair of the House Oversight Committee sent a letter to Wray demanding that the bureau brief the committees by no later than March 2 on why the agency did not act on a January tip about the suspected shooter and his propensity for violence. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also asked that the bureau brief his committee staffers by the end of next week.


Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said of the governor’s call for Wray to resign: “He does not want to talk about gun control, so he is attacking the FBI.”

On Friday night, Trump praised the FBI during a visit with law enforcement officials who responded to the shooting.

“We had a lot of FBI guys down here quickly. So great job; thank you very much,” Trump said to an FBI special agent who was among those at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said Saturday on Fox News: “Director Wray obviously understood that there were mistakes made at the FBI. He made that clear; he took responsibility for it.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he had directed his deputy attorney general, the No. 2 law enforcement official in the country, to look into the matter.

The bureau has in recent years faced significant scrutiny over whether it responds forcefully enough to possible threats. Agents had previously investigated the man who gunned down 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016 but ultimately concluded they could take no action against him. The FBI also had prior contact with the man charged with killing five people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport last year. He had walked into an FBI field office and made bizarre, though not threatening, statements.

Officials believe the Jan. 5 tip about Cruz was passed from a call taker to a supervisor, but it was not forwarded, as it should have been, to agents in the field. The FBI’s call center in 2017 received more than 766,000 calls, though law enforcement officials said they do not believe the lapse here was one due to too much volume, but rather a failure to appropriately assess the tip.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said police had received about 20 calls for service in recent years regarding Cruz, whom neighbors knew to be troubled.

He had been expelled from school, and the administration there sent an email to teachers with a vague suggestion of concern about him.

Howard Finkelstein, the Broward County public defender representing Cruz, said that multiple government agencies failed to prevent what was an avoidable tragedy.

“It is the most horrific crime I’ve ever seen,” Finkelstein said. “And I am overwhelmingly saddened that every single system failed, which means to me we don’t have a system. . . . If this person didn’t get anybody’s attention, nobody will.”