U.S. Capitol police chief: attack on Pelosi's husband bolsters case for more security

U.S. House Speaker Pelosi's husband violently assaulted during break-in at their house in San Francisco

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The attack on U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband highlights the need for more money to protect lawmakers in a bitterly divided political climate, the head of the Capitol Police said on Tuesday.

Authorities are monitoring thousands of cases across the country to stop potential threats, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement just hours before the man accused of beating Pelosi's husband with a hammer was expected to make his first court appearance.

The attack was politically motivated, according to prosecutors, who said in court papers that the accused, David Wayne DePape, 42, said that he wanted to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and force her to tell "the truth."

Pelosi has long been a target of conservative anger.

"We believe today’s political climate calls for more resources to provide additional layers of physical security for members of Congress," Manger said. "This plan would include an emphasis on adding redundancies to the measures that are already in place for congressional leadership," he said without providing details.

Pelosi and other top leaders of Congress get full-time guards and other enhanced security measures.

The attack came shortly before the Nov. 8 midterm elections and follows months of bitter campaigning as Republicans try to win control of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Threats against Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been on the rise. Capitol Police said they investigated 9,625 incidents in 2021, nearly a threefold increase from 2017.

Manger said the department is on track to meet its goal of hiring nearly 280 officers by the end of this year.

Security measures for members of Congress and for the Capitol itself have been under intense scrutiny since the Jan. 6, 2021 attack at the seat of government by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, who has refused to accept Democrat Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election.

The Capitol Police has opened regional field offices in California and Florida, with plans to open more soon to help investigate threats to lawmakers, Manger said.

Also starting this year, members of Congress can have up to $10,000 worth of new security equipment for their homes paid for by the government, a House Democratic aide said.

This could include items such as motion detectors, duress buttons, special door and window locks and enhanced lighting. They also can hire private security firms.

Lawmakers can also use their regular office expense accounts to buy bulletproof vests and other security equipment and Capitol Police have been increasing coordination with local law enforcement agencies.

(Reporting by Paul Grant and Richard Cowan; editing by Scott Malone, Tim Ahmann, Nick Macfie and Tomasz Janowski)