Paul Pelosi, the husband of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was violently assaulted by a hammer-wielding attacker in the couple's San Francisco home on Friday, authorities said.
The 82-year-old Mr Pelosi was expected to recover, but the attack has raised concerns about potentially deadly violence against political figures before the November 8 midterms.
“Earlier this morning, Paul Pelosi was attacked at home by an assailant who acted with force, and threatened his life while demanding to see the Speaker,” Drew Hammill, spokesman for Ms Pelosi, said in a statement on Friday evening.
Mr Pelosi was admitted to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where he underwent successful surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hands, Mr Hammill said, noting that doctors expected him to make a “full recovery”.
The man arrested at the scene, David Depape, 42, will be charged with attempted homicide, assault with a deadly weapon and several other criminal charges, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said.
Ms Pelosi, who is second in the succession line of the US presidency, was in Washington with her protective detail at the time of the assault, Capitol Police said.
The Associated Press reported that the assailant had been searching for Ms Pelosi when he entered her residence, shouting: “Where is Nancy, where is Nancy?”
Police said officers had gone to the house on a “well-being check”.
When they arrived on scene, they said they found Mr Pelosi and Mr Depape struggling over a hammer.
“The suspect pulled the hammer away from Mr Pelosi and violently assaulted him with it,” said Chief Scott.
CNN reported the attacker had a history of posting right-wing conspiracy theories on a now-deleted Facebook account.
The posts were often about Covid-19 vaccines and the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, when supporters of former president Donald Trump attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
President Joe Biden called the Pelosi family on Friday to extend his support, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“The president is praying for Paul Pelosi and for Speaker Pelosi’s whole family,” said Ms Jean-Pierre.
“He is also very glad that a full recovery is expected. The president continues to condemn all violence and asks that the family’s desire for privacy be respected.”
Within minutes of the announcement of the attack, supportive messages began flooding in on Twitter, including from members of Congress.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted that he was “horrified and disgusted” by the attack.
“Grateful to hear that Paul is on track to make a full recovery and that law enforcement including our stellar Capitol Police are on the case,” the Republican senator said.
Bernie Sanders, a leading progressive senator and former candidate for president, pointed to the “increasingly violent rhetoric” in American political discourse in his condemnation of the attack.
Bill Pascarell, a congressman from New Jersey, was among the first to say he was praying for Mr Pelosi and called the incident “cowardly, disgusting and disgraceful”.
But some Republicans reacted with a partisan spin — including Rand Paul, who called the Pelosi family out over comments the speaker's daughter made about his own assault in 2017, when a neighbour attacked him during a dispute over their yards.
“Unlike Nancy Pelosi's daughter, who celebrated my assault, I condemn this attack and wish Mr Pelosi a speedy recovery,” wrote the Kentucky senator.
The assault came amid an increase in threats against members of Congress following the Capitol attack and several security incidents over the summer.
Data from the US Capitol Police show that threats made against politicians have drastically increased in the past five years, with nearly 10,000 threats investigated in 2021 alone.
In 2017, House Republican Whip Steve Scalise and several others were injured after an armed attacker opened fire at a congressional baseball team practice.
In June, police arrested an armed man who had made threats against Brett Kavanaugh near the conservative US Supreme Court justice's home.
And this week, three men in the state of Michigan were found guilty of taking part in a conspiracy to kidnap Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, in a plot ascribed to hostility over Covid-19 safety restrictions in the state.
America has long grappled with political violence. Four presidents have been assassinated, including Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and John F Kennedy in 1963.
The January 6 attack on the US Capitol saw supporters of then-president Donald Trump enter Congress, with some chanting for Mike Pence to be murdered.