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Threats to Pelosi, other lawmakers have surged exponentially, police say

Oliver Helbig/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- An attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband has left Washington rattled amid an overall rise in threats against members of Congress.

Paul Pelosi was hospitalized after being "violently assaulted" by an intruder who broke into the couple's residence in San Francisco early Friday morning, a spokesman for Pelosi said. Sources told ABC News the attack is suspected to be targeted, and the suspect was apparently looking for Pelosi herself.

The House speaker was in Washington with her protective detail at the time, according to U.S. Capitol Police.

U.S. Capitol Police on Friday confirmed statistics showing concerning statements and threats have more than doubled since 2017.

That year, the agency reported 3,939 cases of both concerning statements and threats. In June 2017, a gunman opened a fire as Republican politicians practiced for the annual congressional baseball game, severely wounding House GOP Whip Steve Scalise and injuring three others.

The number of threats and concerning statements rose each year after, police said, totaling 8,613 cases in 2020 and 9,625 cases in 2021.

In the first three months of this year alone, the U.S. Capitol Police opened roughly 1,820 cases.

Former Capitol Police Inspector General Michael Bolton, confronted with the rising numbers during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last year, said the agency was working on bettering their response to such threats. Those steps included opening field offices in Florida and San Francisco.

"We still have a ways to go, but we are making improvements. We're taking our steps now," Bolton told the panel.

This summer, the House sergeant-at-arms' office began covering the costs of installing and maintaining security equipment at all lawmakers' homes. A memo obtained by ABC News showed the program would cover up to $10,000 in upgrades and monthly monitoring fees starting Aug. 15.

Pelosi herself been the target of several threats. In the days after the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, a man was arrested and sentenced to 28 months in prison for threatening to shoot Pelosi. In April of this year, a man was sentenced to 18 months in prison for threatening to behead Pelosi and New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Some members of Congress have been outspoken about the threats they've received.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., in June revealed on ABC's "This Week" that someone wrote a letter threatening to execute him, his wife and their 5-month-old baby. Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, warned there would be ""violence in the future" -- "Until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can't expect any differently," he said.

Kinzinger, responding to the assault against Paul Pelosi, said Friday "every GOP candidate and elected official must speak out, and now."

GOP Sen. Susan Collins, whose home was once broken into, told the New York Times earlier this month that she "wouldn't be surprised if a senator or House member were killed."

"What started with abusive phone calls is now translating into active threats of violence and real violence," she told the newspaper.

Many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were quick Friday to condemn the attack against Pelosi.

President Joe Biden called Pelosi on Friday to express his support, the White House said in a statement, and he continues to "condemn all violence, and asks that the family's desire for privacy be respected."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he was "horrified and disgusted" by the reports of Paul Pelosi's assault. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Pelosi's main rival in the chamber, reached out to her to check in on Paul and said he's praying for a full recovery and is thankful they caught the assailant," McCarthy spokesperson Mark Bednar said.

"We can have our political differences, but violence is always wrong [and] unacceptable," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter.

But Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, appeared to make light of the attack while speaking at a rally with 7th Congressional District GOP U.S. House candidate Yesli Vega.

"There's no room for violence anywhere, but we're going to send her back to be with him in California," Youngkin said on Friday. "That's what we're gonna go do. That's what we're gonna go do."

- ABC News' Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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