Paul Pelosi attack highlights rising threats to lawmakers

Oct 28, 2022, 4:02 PM | Updated: Oct 30, 2022, 6:13 am
Staff members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including Pelosi's Chief of Staff Terri McCullough, se...

Staff members of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, including Pelosi's Chief of Staff Terri McCullough, second from right, hug outside of the Capitol, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, before entering a vehicle on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s something that goes along with being a member of Congress, no matter your party or your status: constant threats to your life, and the unshakeable feeling that they’re only getting worse.

In the almost two years since the Capitol insurrection, in which supporters of former President Donald Trump broke into the Capitol and hunted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of Congress, threats to lawmakers and their families have increased sharply. Early Friday, an assailant looking for Pelosi broke into her San Francisco home and used a hammer to attack her husband Paul, who suffered blunt-force injuries and was hospitalized.

It is, in fact, getting worse: The U.S. Capitol Police investigated almost 10,000 threats to members last year, more than twice the number from four years earlier.

“We are 100%, completely vulnerable and the risks are increasing,” says Illinois Rep. Mike Quigley, a Chicago-area Democrat. “If someone wants to harm you, they know where you live, they know where you work.”

Lawmakers have pressured congressional leaders and the Capitol Police for better security, especially for their families and their homes outside of Washington. They have made some progress, with security officials promising to pay for upgrades to certain security systems and an increased Capitol Police presence outside Washington. But the vast majority of members are mostly on their own as they figure out how to keep themselves and their families safe in a country where political violence has become alarmingly frequent.

The attack on Paul Pelosi happened when Nancy Pelosi was out of town, which meant there was less of a security presence in their home.

“It’s attacks like this that make all of us stand back and wonder what we can do better,” says Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who was at a baseball practice four years ago in Alexandria, Virginia, when a gunman wounded Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and four other people.

Davis, who was defeated for reelection in his Republican primary earlier this year, says security needs to be improved for members and their families, and “we also have to work to tone down some of the violent rhetoric that inspires some of these individuals to do what they do.”

As have many of their colleagues, Davis and Quigley both say they have improved security at their homes in recent years. Two years after the baseball shooting, an Illinois man was arrested for threatening to shoot Davis in the head. Randall Tarr pleaded guilty to federal charges and was sentenced to probation.

Davis has since urged his colleagues to report all threats to the police and work with local prosecutors to make sure people are charged. “You’ve got to take that threat seriously,” he says.

Incidents like that are disturbingly common. On Friday, just hours after the assault on Pelosi, the Justice Department announced that a man pleaded guilty to making threatening telephone calls to an unidentified California congressman’s office and saying he had “a lot of AR-15s” and wanted to kill the congressman and members of his staff.

In July, a man accosted New York Rep. Lee Zeldin, a Republican who is running for governor of New York, as he spoke at a campaign event and told Zeldin, “You’re done.” Zeldin wrestled the man to the ground and escaped with only a minor scrape.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., revealed earlier this year that a man came to her house with a gun, screaming obscenities. After the incident, she wrote congressional leaders a letter and asked them to do more to keep members safe.

Lawmakers have received some upgraded security since the Jan. 6 insurrection. In July, the House Sergeant at Arms sent a letter to all House offices saying that members could have up to $10,000 reimbursed for security upgrades in their homes, including intrusion detection systems, cameras, locks and lighting. But in reality, sophisticated security can cost much more.

And some members do get added security, if there are serious threats. Nancy Pelosi and other congressional leaders have Capitol Police security with them at all times, as do members who are deemed to be most vulnerable at any given time. That security apparatus doesn’t always extend to families when the member isn’t at home, however, making spouses like Paul Pelosi more vulnerable.

Members of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection also have round-the-clock protection. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chair of the committee, issued a statement Friday urging “federal agencies and law enforcement to redouble their efforts to protect officials, our elections, and our democracy in the days ahead.”

Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on that committee, recently released menacing voicemails he had received threatening his wife and baby. Kinzinger tweeted Friday after Paul Pelosi’s assault that “every GOP candidate and elected official must speak out, and now.”

Republican Rep. Davis also urged his colleagues, Democrat and Republican, to condemn the attack.

“The attack on Paul Pelosi is not only an attack on Nancy Pelosi and her family,” Davis said. “It’s an attack on all of us.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen casts her ballots at a polling station in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Sa...
Associated Press

Taiwan votes for opposition Nationalist party in local polls

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Voters in Taiwan overwhelmingly chose the opposition Nationalist party in several major races across the self-ruled island in an election Saturday in which lingering concerns about threats from China took a backseat to more local issues. Chiang Wan-an, the Nationalist party’s mayoral candidate, won the closely watched seat in capital Taipei. […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Iran leader praises force tasked with quashing protests

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader praised paramilitary volunteers tasked with quashing dissent on Saturday in a televised address as dozens of eye doctors warned that a rising number of demonstrators have been blinded by security forces during anti-government protests. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed members of the Basij, the volunteer paramilitary wing of the elite […]
6 hours ago
FILE - The Twitter logo is seen on a mobile phone, Oct. 14, 2022, in Boston. Social media platforms...
Associated Press

Musk plans to relaunch Twitter premium service, again

Elon Musk said Friday that Twitter plans to relaunch its premium service that will offer different colored check marks to accounts next week.
6 hours ago
Al Gharafa Park is viewed in Doha, Qatar, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Qatar unveiled a plan last Octob...
Associated Press

Energy-rich Qatar faces fast-rising climate risks at home

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — At a suburban park near Doha, the capital city of Qatar, cool air from vents in the ground blasted joggers on a November day that reached almost 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). The small park with air-conditioned paths is an apt illustration of World Cup host Qatar’s answers, so […]
6 hours ago
In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Ze...
Associated Press

Ukraine works to restore water, power after Russian strikes

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian authorities endeavored Saturday to restore electricity and water services after recent pummeling by Russian military strikes that vastly damaged infrastructure, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying millions have seen their power restored since blackouts swept the war-battered country days earlier. Skirmishes continued in the east and residents from the southern city […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Palestinian soccer fans wave Qatari and Palestinian flags as they watch a live broadcast of ...
Associated Press

Flashes of Arab unity at World Cup after years of discontent

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — For a brief moment after Saudi Arabia’s Salem Aldawsari fired a ball from just inside the penalty box into the back of the net to seal a World Cup win against Argentina, Arabs across the divided Middle East found something to celebrate. Such Arab unity is hard to come by and […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Paul Pelosi attack highlights rising threats to lawmakers