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What we know about the violent attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband

Are members of Congress actually safe?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul Pelosi attend mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican on June 29, 2022.
Stefano Costantino/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Nicole Narea covers politics and society for Vox. She first joined Vox in 2019, and her work has also appeared in Politico, Washington Monthly, and the New Republic.

Editor’s note, November 1, 2022: This article was first published on October 28, after Paul Pelosi was attacked in his home, and is no longer being updated. Click here to read Vox’s latest on the incident.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, has been hospitalized after an assailant broke into the couple’s residence in San Francisco early Friday morning and attacked him, according to Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for the speaker.

Hammill said in a statement that the assailant is now in custody, the motivation for the attack is under investigation, and that the 82-year-old Pelosi, who reportedly underwent brain surgery on Friday, is expected to make a full recovery.

San Francisco police said in a press conference Friday that they’d been dispatched to the home around 2:30 am PT for a wellness check and found the assailant, identified as 42-year-old David Depape. He had pulled a hammer away from Pelosi’s grip and bludgeoned him with it. Police tackled and disarmed the attacker, then administered medical assistance.

The attacker targeted the Pelosi home, reportedly shouting “Where is Nancy?” when he confronted Paul Pelosi — echoing the chant insurrectionists called out when they breached the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. Speaker Pelosi was in Washington at the time of the break-in, accompanied by her security detail.

The attacker will be booked at the San Francisco County Jail on charges of attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, and several additional felonies, according to the police.

“The speaker and her family are grateful to the first responders and medical professionals involved, and request privacy at this time,” Hammill said.

Lawmakers from both parties have condemned the attack, including Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA):

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) suggested that Republicans bear some responsibility.

On Friday morning, Fox News hinted that the attack could be used to Republicans’ advantage in the midterms, with anchors trying to tie it to the party’s message on crime. “This can happen anywhere. Crime is random and that’s why it’s such a significant part of this election story,” Fox anchor Bill Hemmer said.

The number of threats against members of Congress rose dramatically between 2017 and 2022, with US Capitol Police investigating nearly 10,000 threats last year.

Pelosi’s home was also vandalized in December 2020. Republican Sen. Susan Collins told the New York Times in October that an intruder had smashed a storm window in her Bangor, Maine, home and said she “wouldn’t be surprised if a senator or House member were killed.” A man was also charged with felony stalking in July after he shouted expletives outside Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Seattle home while armed with a semiautomatic handgun with a single live round.

Following the January 6 attack at the US Capitol, the Federal Election Commission ruled in March 2021 that members of Congress could use campaign funds to pay for personal security services. Since then, their personal security expenditures have ballooned, especially among those who have a high national profile and controversial legislative record, like Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), as well as among Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.

But the attack on Pelosi’s husband, as well as other recent threats made against members of Congress, raise the question as to whether that’s sufficient to ensure their protection.

Update, October 28, 2:30 pm ET: This story has been updated with information from the San Francisco police press conference.

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