Threats against Pelosi illustrate violent rhetoric aimed at Congress

USA News


  • Threats and “concerning statements” tracked by Capitol Police more than doubled from 2017 to 2021
  • Study: 3% of Americans willing to threaten, injure, or kill to advance a political objective
  • Documented FBI investigations rarely result in prosecutions

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has investigated a series of threats of violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dating back nearly a decade, although federal prosecutors rarely pursued charges.

Records released to USA TODAY through the Freedom of Information Act show the Capitol Police passed on threats to the FBI at least four times between 2013 and 2017. Capitol Police’s Threat Assessment Section handles most threats but escalates some of the most urgent and serious to the FBI.

While not comprehensive, the records offer a window into some past threats the speaker has faced, which were typical for both Democratic and Republican party leaders. 

On Friday, police say a man broke into Pelosi’s San Francisco home and attacked her 82-year-old husband Paul. Authorities say the hammer-wielding attacker was targeting the longtime California lawmaker and planned to break her kneecaps as a warning to other members of Congress.

The suspect reportedly called out, “Where is Nancy” during the attack that left Paul Pelosi hospitalized with a skull fracture.

A police officer stands outside the home of Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in San Francisco, Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. Paul Pelosi was attacked and severely beaten by an assailant with a hammer who broke into their San Francisco home early Friday, according to people familiar with the investigation.

In 2017, USA TODAY began requesting all investigations from cases the Capitol Police passed on to the FBI to gauge the level and tenor of threats against members of Congress. Frequent targets included leadership – Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan – as well as lightning-rod representatives such as Rashida Tlaib and Elizabeth Warren.

In USA TODAY’s sampling of federal records, which spans decades, more than 80 members of Congress have been seriously threatened. Based on the thousands of pages of investigative information sheets provided, those threats arrived in a variety of ways, from unhinged social media posts to letters and phone calls.



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