FBI: Attacker wanted to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, planned to break her kneecaps

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The man who broke into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and attacked her husband with a hammer told authorities he planned on breaking her kneecaps and viewed her as “the leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party, according to court documents.

The Justice Department charged David DePape with the attempted kidnapping of a federal officer and assault of the immediate family member of a federal officer on Monday afternoon. San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins also announced Monday that her office would file charges against DePape that included attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, threats to a public official and false imprisonment of an elder. DePape is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

In a statement released Monday evening, Pelosi said her husband was "making steady progress" in his recovery from the attack.

“Since the horrific attack on Paul early Friday, we have been deluged with thousands of messages conveying concern, prayers and warm wishes. We are most grateful," she said in her statement. “Thanks to the excellent trauma care medical team at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Paul is making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process."

Authorities allege that DePape broke into Pelosi’s San Francisco residence early Friday morning and assaulted her husband, Paul, with a hammer. The congresswoman was in Washington, D.C., at the time of the attack, and Paul Pelosi continues to recover from surgery at a local hospital.

Nancy Pelosi and Paul Pelosi
Nancy and Paul Pelosi. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images)

In the criminal complaint released Monday, an FBI special agent stated that during DePape’s interview with police, he claimed his plan had been to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage and talk to her. If she told the truth, he would let her go, but if she lied, he would break her kneecaps. DePape said his assumption was that Pelosi would lie to him, and he viewed her as the “‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party,” according to the complaint.

“DePape also later explained that by breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other members of Congress there were consequences to actions,” read the filing.

After Paul Pelosi called 911, DePape allegedly said he did not leave “because, much like the American Founding Fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.” Police claim he reiterated this sentiment elsewhere in the interview.

According to the complaint, DePape said he was planning on restraining Paul Pelosi with zip ties. When the police arrived, Pelosi ran to the door and opened it. The two wrestled over the hammer DePape had brought into the residence, and DePape allegedly struck Pelosi with it.

The residence of Nancy and Paul Pelosi
The San Francisco residence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after her husband, Paul, was assaulted during a break-in. (KGO-TV via ABC via Reuters)

According to records of his internet activity, DePape was an adherent of a number of conspiracy theories promoted in right-wing media, including QAnon and the belief that the 2020 election was stolen. He also cast doubt on preventive COVID-19 actions like vaccinations and wearing masks, promoted antisemitic beliefs and defended former President Donald Trump.

Nancy Pelosi has been featured prominently in Republican ads and right-wing media attacks for years, with an uptick recently leading into November’s midterm elections. Last year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that “it will be hard not to hit” Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel if he takes over the position in 2023. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., previously liked social media posts supporting Pelosi's execution.

“The Pelosi family is immensely grateful to Mr. Pelosi’s entire medical team and the law enforcement officers who responded to the assault,” Drew Hammill, spokesman for the speaker, said in a statement on Friday. “The family appreciates respect for their privacy during this time.”