What we know about the attack on Paul Pelosi

Washington
CNN
 — 

The man who is alleged to have attacked Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has been charged with assault and attempted kidnapping, the US attorney’s office announced on Monday.

The federal charges against David DePape, 42, include one count of “attempted kidnapping of a US official,” according to the US attorney’s office for the Northern District of California. DePape also was charged with one count of assault of an immediate family member of a US official with the intent to retaliate against the official.

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The federal charges against DePape are in addition to state charges, which San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said later Monday include “attempted murder, residential burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, elder abuse, false imprisonment of an elder, as well as threats to a public official and their family.”

Based on DePape’s statements, Jenkins said, it appears the attack was “politically motivated.”

“Yes, it appears as though this was, based on his statements and comments that were made in that house during his encounter with Mr. Pelosi, that this was politically motivated,” she said at a press conference.

Paul Pelosi was interviewed this weekend at the hospital by investigators and was able to provide details of the attack, two law enforcement sources and a source familiar with the matter tell CNN.

Among those conducting the interview were FBI and local law enforcement investigators.

CNN has reported that Depape posted memes and conspiracy theories on Facebook about Covid vaccines, the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The assault has renewed discussions about violent rhetoric directed toward lawmakers, with Democrats calling on Republicans to forcefully condemn extremist language in their camp, as well as concerns about lawmaker safety.

This is what we presently know about the attack.

DePape was carrying zip ties and tape, affidavit says

A court filing related to the federal charges against DePape revealed the most detailed account yet of Paul Pelosi’s 911 call while the incident was unfolding.

“Pelosi stated words to the effect of there is a male in the home and that the male is going to wait for Pelosi’s wife. Pelosi further conveyed that he does not know who the male is. The male said his name is David,” an FBI agent said in a sworn affidavit that was unsealed Monday.

Paul Pelosi called 911 at 2:23 a.m. Pacific Time on Friday, and police arrived at his house eight minutes later, according to the affidavit unsealed Monday.

“When the door was opened, Pelosi and DePape were both holding a hammer with one hand and DePape had his other hand holding onto Pelosi’s forearm,” the affidavit said. “Pelosi greeted the officers. The officers asked them what was going on. DePape responded that everything was good. Officers then asked Pelosi and DePape to drop the hammer.”

At that moment, DePape allegedly pulled the hammer away and swung it, striking Paul Pelosi in the head. Pelosi “appeared to be unconscious on the ground” after the blow, the affidavit said.

“DePape was prepared to detain and injure Speaker Pelosi when he entered the Pelosi residence in the early morning of October 28, 2022,” the FBI agent said in the affidavit. “DePape had zip ties, tape, rope, and at least one hammer with him that morning.”

CNN has previously reported that DePape allegedly tried to tie up Pelosi.

Police have said that DePape entered the home through a backdoor and it wasn’t clear if he circumvented any security measures.

CNN previously reported that DePape confronted Pelosi and asked where his wife was, shouting, “Where is Nancy?” The speaker was not home at the time of the attack.

According to the criminal complaint filed in court, DePape told local police that he intended to find the House speaker and hold her hostage.

Renewed fears of political violence

The attack, coming in the home stretch of a midterm campaign season in which Nancy Pelosi often has served as the focus of Republican criticism, has renewed concerns about violence directed toward lawmakers, especially in the wake of the January 6 Capitol riot.

“What makes us think that one party can talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘Covid being a hoax,’ ‘this is all a bunch of lies,’ and it not affect people who may not be so well balanced?” President Joe Biden said on Friday.

“What makes us think that it’s not going to corrode the political climate?”

GOP Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, who is set to become House Oversight Committee chairman if the GOP gains control of the House next year, condemned the attack in comments to CNN on Saturday, and said both Republicans and Democrats need to tone down the political rhetoric while admitting that he, too, could improve in that regard.

“It’s very difficult environment out there. You have a lot of people that get so fired up, because of various political causes. It puts many politicians in a dangerous spot,” he told CNN’s Pamela Brown on “CNN Newsroom.”

Mixed response by Republicans

Several prominent Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have condemned the attack, though some others – most notably former President Donald Trump – have offered a more tepid response.

“With Paul Pelosi, that’s a terrible thing. With all of them, it’s a terrible thing,” Trump told Americano Media, a Spanish-language outlet co-founded by former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo.

The former president did not comment further on the attack on Pelosi’s husband, instead pivoting to criticism of crime in major US cities.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday that the attack was “disgusting,” but dodged questions about election conspiracy theories that were shared by the alleged attacker on social media.

Asked by Bash if his party should do more to reject false conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021, insurrection that were shared on social media by DePape, Scott did not directly respond.

And Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, the chair of the House GOP campaign arm, condemned violence broadly in an interview with CBS on Sunday, but refused to commit to pulling advertisements targeting Nancy Pelosi.

Emmer also wouldn’t commit to taking down a recent tweet, which included a video of him firing a gun that read, “Enjoyed exercising my Second Amendment rights … Let’s #FirePelosi,” telling CBS that he disagreed that the tweet was dangerous.

DePape posted multiple conspiracy theories online

A CNN investigation into DePape found that he posted memes and conspiracy theories on Facebook about Covid vaccines, the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Most of the public posts on DePape’s Facebook page were from 2021. In earlier years, DePape also posted long screeds about religion, including claims that “Jesus is the anti christ.” None of the public posts appeared to mention Pelosi.

His stepfather, Gene DePape, said David DePape grew up in Powell River, British Columbia, and left Canada about 20 years ago to pursue a relationship that brought him to California.

People who knew DePape in California described him as an odd character, with one acquaintance, Linda Schneider, a California resident, telling CNN that she had received “really disturbing” emails from DePape in which he sounded like a “megalomaniac and so out of touch with reality.”

She said she stopped communicating with him “because it seemed so dangerous,” adding that she recalled him “using Biblical justification to do harm.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Marshall Cohen, Josh Campbell, Stephen Collinson, Jamie Gangel, Whitney Wild, Daniella Diaz, Shawna Mizelle, Casey Tolan, Curt Devine, Daniel A. Medina, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Evan Perez contributed to this report.

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