Clip: Attack on Pelosi's husband highlights concerns over political violence

Oct. 28, 2022 AT 5:25 p.m. EDT

The brutal attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband comes as threats to American lawmakers are at an all-time high. The incident highlights recent concerns over political violence in the years following the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Get Washington Week in your inbox

TRANSCRIPT

Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Yamiche Alcindor : We begin with disturbing news. This morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul Pelosi, was hospitalized after a man broke into their San Francisco home around 2:00 A.M. and violently attacked him with a hammer. The alleged intruder identified as David DePape shouted a Paul Pelosi, quote, where is Nancy. He is expected to be charged with attempted homicide. This incident comes as Election Day is just 11 days away.

Joining me now to discuss this and more, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, White House Correspondent for The New York Times, Scott MacFarlane, Congressional Correspondent for CBS News, and Ashley Parker, Senior National Political Correspondent for The Washington Post. Thank you all for being here.

Scott, I'm going to start with you. We've learned some new details, especially that Paul Pelosi called 911 himself. What's the latest of what we're hearing about this and the possible motives here?

Scott MacFarlane, Congressional Correspondent, CBS News : Let's be clear. This is a grotesque set of allegations that this 42-year-old accused of this attack not only broke into the Pelosi home and used a hammer to break into the house and to hit the skull of the 82-year-old husband of the House speaker, also and injuring Mr. Pelois's arm and his right hand.

Surgery was successful. The skull fractures have been acted upon and they're expecting a full recovery at the medical center, at the San Francisco General Hospital. It's a grotesque set of accusations but something else jump out at me as grotesque, the parallels, the symmetry to what we saw 21 months ago. In this case, the investigators familiar with the case say that this accused assailant was saying, where's Nancy, where' Nancy, intended to tie up her husband on January 6th. Any number of those rioters were chanting, where is Nancy, Nancy, we're coming to get you, bringing makeshift weapons, including at least one hammer on January 6th. And it just raises the question, is this a snapshot of where we are in America in 2022? Is that where politics are? And this is both shocking but not surprising at all.

Yamiche Alcindor : It's a credible question, is this where we are? And I want to also point out that the threats against lawmakers have been rising in recent years. Just today, a man named Joshua Hall who threatened to kill Representative Eric Swalwell, he pleaded guilty to those charges. And then you have reporting that the Capitol police has now begun a review of security of lawmakers. I wonder when you are thinking about all of this, what is the impact of this attack possibly on the future of the security of lawmakers and what are you hearing about Capitol Hill police trying to keep people safe?

Scott MacFarlane : Let me give you one number to start with. 10,000 threat investigations in one year for U.S. Capitol police, and that's an increase from a few years ago. That is a dramatic increase from a few years ago.

In the near term, Capitol Police are likely to expand the protection of the dignitaries, the people in leadership, those who have very significant threats against them. The January 6th Committee members have had extra security and they expand that to spouses and family in the wake of this attack against Mr. Pelosi.

But there's a broader question. There is a finite number of officers. There's a finite number of resources. They've got about 2,000 employees. They have about a half a billion dollar a year budget. But members of Congress live everywhere. They're not just at the Capitol. There's only so much space and bandwidth they can cover.

Yamiche Alcindor : Yes. And, Zolan, we are hearing from President Biden. He's saying enough is enough, calling this despicable. We're also hearing and learning that David DePape, this man, that he espoused all sorts of conspiracy theories about had COVID-19, about the 2020 election. I wonder what your sources are telling you, especially national security sources, about how all this comes together and the ongoing threats of 2022. And I know you have got your hands on some hot new reporting for us about this sort of warnings that we are hearing in 2022.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs, White House Correspondent, The New York Times : Yes, no, absolutely. Just today, federal law enforcement was circulating a threat assessment that, really, states what has been a heightened risk for political violence that has existed since January 6th. Since January 6th, you've seen DHS, FBI issuing multiple warnings, saying specially that false claims about the election, the current political rhetoric, the current state of divisiveness, that it could encourage people to commit the sort of attacks like we today.

Now, this bulletin does not specifically detail the attack on Mr. Pelosi. I should say that. But what it does reside and summarize is previous attacks against members of Congress and also saying ahead of the midterm elections that government officials, as well as election workers, could be at risk of further attacks by domestic extremists. That continues to be motivated by those same false claims. This is the current security environment, this current threat environment that we're in.

My colleagues have also reported that members of Congress fearing attacks like this have spent $6 million dipping into their own campaign funds, their official budgets as well, just to pay for their own security. The neighbor of the Pelosis in San Francisco noted today that, sure, there is a security detail for Speaker Pelosi but she is in Washington today. And what happens also to the relatives of these members of Congress when members have to come back to D.C. to do their job. Both you are hearing it from federal law enforcement, you're hearing it from members of Congress as well. There's still a concern here and the dangers and the risk that we saw on the wake of the attack on the Capitol have not subsided.

Yamiche Alcindor : And I keep thinking about what if Nancy Pelosi was home? What would if -- this story would be so different, possibly, if that man had seen what he was looking for, Zolan.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs : I mean, there were people that were wondering what if there was no rush to get members of Congress out of the Capitol on the day of January 6th? That same language was being used. We remember when Speaker Pelosi's office was also ransacked that day as well. Based off of what's being reported, this person went in there and was specifically looking for the speaker. And we know not only did he intend to commit harm but he did also meant harm at that point. It just so happens she was in Washington.

Yamiche Alcindor : That's scary stuff, Ashley. And we've heard from Republicans, we've heard from Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, saying that they're wishing Paul Pelosi a speedy recovery. I also want to point out something that the Virginia governor, Glenn Youngkin, said. He was campaigning today. And I want to quote from him directly. He said Speaker Pelosi's husband had a break-in last night in their house, that he was assaulted. There is no room for violence anymore. But he said we are going to send her back with him back to California. That's what we're going to do.

We covered all sorts of attacks and charged rhetoric, but I'm wondering what you make of what the governor is saying in the sort of political atmosphere that we are living through right now?

Ashley Parker, Senior National Political Correspondent, The Washington Post : It's not the governor of Virginia in that, but it's sort of crucial because that was a through-line and a number -- not all -- but and a number of Republican statements and tweets today. It was sort of violence is never acceptable, but.

There was a local Ohio representative, who, in a series of tweets, said he hopes Paul Pelosi makes a full recovery, violence is not acceptable, but, and then seeming mocked the calls of some liberals and liberal lawmakers to defund the police, said, but, in a Tweet, I sure hope that San Francisco sends their finest social worker to respond to the attack at the Pelosi household. And even Marjorie Taylor Greene, who, before she ran for Congress, accused Nancy Pelosi of treason and seemed to suggest that she should be executed for treason, she put out a tweet later today saying, again, no excuse for violence, it's unacceptable, but let's remember all the times that I have been under attack.

And so when you see violence like this on either side, it feels like the sort of normal traditional thing is just say, this is unacceptable, full-stop, not this is unacceptable, snarky comment about her husband, snarky comment about liberal policies, snarky bothsidesism. But that was one thing that struck me in a number of the Republican responses we saw today.

Yamiche Alcindor : And as someone who has sort of been traveling across, Scott, across this country, both us, I keep thinking about just the fact that rhetoric really does have consequences as oftentimes. We look at Twitter and we look at these sort of exchanges, with peoples' lives can be at risk because there are people who will take this too far and will see the but that Ashley is talking about as a sort of imitation for violence here.

I'm also thinking about what is going on in Arizona, which is that there is a lawsuit going on because there's some worry that people are now staking out drop boxes. I even interviewed a voter who's told me that he was going to be at mail drop boxes with his ice pack and his ice cooler and his shotgun, his firearm, because he's someone who doesn't believe the 2020 election was fair.

What are hearing about the sort of intimidation of voters and election workers as we are heading closer and closer to Election Day?

Scott MacFarlane : Let's start with what we hear from the experts. The 2020, oh, by the way, was the safest, most security election in American history, and done during a pandemic, which is a herculean accomplishment. So, all these claims, these baseless claims of fraud come in the wake of a very successful, uniquely successful election.

So, here we are with people monitoring drop boxes, a way to make it easier for people to vote, monitoring the drop box, doing so armed or in an intimidating fashion makes it may be harder for some people to want to vote. It's a disincentive. And that goes back to the previous point. If we hear about concerns that polling places might be targeted, election workers, administrators might be targeted, the fear is not just that they will be targeted but just the warning would be a disincentive for people to vote. It's voter suppression.

So, now, we have a balancing act. We have people monitoring drop boxes. We want to alert folks to that. We have people who may be targeting extremist groups, targeting polling places. We want to notify people about that. But we don't want to dissuade people from voting. Millions have voted already in 2022. So far, it's been all safe.

Ashley Parker : And I just wanted to go back to something you said and asking him that question about rhetoric having consequences. For someone like Speaker Pelosi, you can really draw a through-line for the past decade.

In 2010, right after Obamacare passed, there was a campaign by Republicans, by the Republican National Committee, called Fire Pelosi. And it's sort of in -- there were images of her engulfed in kind of heeds like flames. And that was the first iteration, right? She's been vilified and demonized ever since. This election cycle already, Republicans have spent -- she's the number one most vilified member of Congress in ads. Republicans have spent $80 million running 300 different unique ads attacking her. And then McCarthy, the Republican leader, about a year ago, was sort of making a, quote/unquote, joke, and he said he couldn't wait to get the gavel from Nancy Pelosi, but it would be hard not to hit her with it.

And so when you look at that, what we saw last night feels like an almost all but inevitable conclusion of the past 12 years.

Yamiche Alcindor : Yes. I mean, it is scary stuff.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

Support our journalism

MORE INFO
Washington Week Logo

© 1996 - 2024 WETA. All Rights Reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization

Support our journalism

WASHINGTON WEEK

Contact: Kathy Connolly,

Vice President Major and Planned Giving

kconnolly@weta.org or 703-998-2064