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Everything we know about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And we begin with the investigation into the attack on Paul Pelosi. Of course, it happened in the predawn hours of Friday morning at the home he shares with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Authorities say the intruder was 42-year-old David DePape. He is in custody. Mr. Pelosi underwent what doctors say was a successful surgery. NPR congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh joins us. Deirdre, thanks for being with us.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Good morning.

SIMON: Let's begin with Friday morning. What at the moment do we know about what happened?

WALSH: San Francisco police say Mr. Pelosi was the one who actually called 911 early Friday morning. Police Chief William Scott credited a dispatcher with sensing something was wrong and sending help quickly. The chief said when officers arrived, they found DePape and Mr. Pelosi inside the home, both holding a hammer. DePape pulled the hammer away from Mr. Pelosi and assaulted him with it. He was struck at least once. DePape broke into a rear door to enter the home, and Chief Scott said last night he was targeting the home.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM SCOTT: This was not a random act. This was intentional.

WALSH: According to a source briefed on the investigation, DePape was specifically looking for the speaker and told me when he entered the home, he confronted Paul Pelosi and asked, where's Nancy? Where's Nancy? Mr. Pelosi - who, like the speaker, is 82 years old - was taken to the hospital. He underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for the speaker, says Mr. Pelosi is expected to make a full recovery.

SIMON: At the moment, what do we know about the suspect?

WALSH: Well, the police are still investigating the motive. DePape is being charged with multiple counts, including attempted homicide, assault, elder abuse. In these cases, investigators often look at social media postings to try to figure out a motive. NPR has reviewed social media accounts for a man with a similar name as DePape, and they include antisemitic tropes and false claims about the 2020 election - also, misinformation about the COVID vaccine. But right now, we just don't have much official information from law enforcement about any specific links to Pelosi.

SIMON: And where does the investigation go from here, Deirdre?

WALSH: Well, the FBI, the U.S. Capitol Police and San Francisco police have a joint threat investigation. You know, it's worth mentioning all the top leaders from both parties have security details assigned by the Capitol Police. But the speaker was in Washington with her security team when this attack happened, so they were with her, not her husband. The San Francisco police noted last night that the Capitol Police are in charge of security at the residence in San Francisco. So there's going to be a lot of questions about how DePape got in.

SIMON: And threats against leaders and other members of Congress have been on the rise, haven't they?

WALSH: They have. They've really gone up dramatically recently against lawmakers from both parties. You know, five years ago, Capitol Police recorded about 4,000 threats. But in 2021, the last full year we have statistics for, there were close to 10,000 threats. Last year, the U.S. Capitol Police opened two field offices - one in Florida, one in California - because of these heightened threats. They also added money for lawmakers' budgets this year to allow them to spend resources to upgrade their security systems, both in offices and in their homes, where they're getting these threats. Lawmakers from both parties were pretty shaken up last night. Senate majority leader called the attack dastardly. The top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell, called it horrific. And President Biden called on leaders from both parties to reject political violence last night. He's been in touch with the speaker to check on Mr. Pelosi.

SIMON: NPR's Deirdre Walsh, thank you so much.

WALSH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.

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