At left, state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Adams) watches as a speaker gives remarks at a rally supporting a bill aiming to make new federal firearm regulations enacted after Dec. 2020 unenforceable in Pennsylvania on May 12, 2021. At right in the background, state Sen. Cris Dush (R-Cameron).
Sam Dunklau is the Capitol Bureau Chief for WITF. He previously covered Illinois state government for NPR member station WUIS in Springfield, IL.
Since 2015, Sam has been floating around the radio airwaves as a reporter, disc jockey, and station manager. He grew up in the small midwestern town of Paw Paw, Illinois and is a proud graduate of Augustana College.
(Harrisburg) –– A letter from Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano that includes numerous false claims about Pennsylvania’s 2020 election has surfaced in a U.S. House committee’s investigation into the causes of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The Democratic-led committee released a trove of emails that show Trump allies trying to pressure the Justice Department to look into baseless or disproven election-fraud claims. That effort supported a wider goal of overturning or invalidating election results in several swing states, including Pennsylvania.
For example, the letter cites a discrepancy between the number of votes counted and the number of people who voted. By the next day, the claim had been debunked: the Department of State said the group had relied on incomplete data from the state’s voter database.
Nonetheless, the newly-released emails show private attorney Kurt Olsen, who the New York Times reports advised Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on a lawsuit that asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn election results in states like Pennsylvania, cited Mastriano’s letter as “additional justification” for the Justice Department to present a similar suit to the Supreme Court. Olsen said that approach would ensure the claims would be “immediately investigated and not swept under the rug.”
Julio Cortez / AP Photo
Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks to supporters of President Donald Trump as they demonstrate outside the Pennsylvania State Capitol, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pa., after Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump to become 46th president of the United States.
The emails also show Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) was also in the mix. He shared a slideshow outlining the misleading voter database claim with U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R, PA-10) a week before he released it to the public on Dec. 28. Perry then forwarded the slideshow to Justice Department lawyers, referencing a previous discussion he had with Donoghue.
Donoghue passed state Rep. Ryan’s materials on to Western District of Pennsylvania U.S. Attorney Scott Brady on Dec. 27, writing for Brady to be aware of them “for whatever [they] may be worth.” Donoghue then referenced the whole group of documents as “some antics” in a late evening email to another Justice Department official on the 28th.
Perry, meanwhile, had already been playing a different role in President Trump’s efforts to reverse his election loss.
In January, Perry confirmed to Pennsylvania media outlets that he had introduced President Trump to Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Clark. The New York Times reports Clark had concocted a plan to have the Justice Department warn Georgia state lawmakers that the state’s Electoral College vote could be invalidated.
The hundreds of pages of emails, which the agency released in response to a request by House investigators, in part show Clark’s attempts to discuss false claims of Georgia voter fraud with other officials like his boss, former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. The Times also reported Clark had been discussing a plan to oust Rosen, but Clark denied that allegation after the story was published.
Neither Perry nor Mastriano could be reached for comment. On Wednesday, Ryan said through a spokeswoman that his report “spoke for itself and reflects his concerns about the Supreme Court and the actions of the Department of State.”
It’s unclear whether the House Oversight committee will ask those lawmakers to testify in its inquiry. U.S. Rep. Carol Maloney (D, NY-12), who chairs the committee, said the investigation is ongoing and is vowing to question anyone who “aided or witnessed” Trump’s attempts to “subvert democracy.”
“These documents show that President Trump tried to corrupt our nation’s chief law enforcement agency in a brazen attempt to overturn an election that he lost,” Maloney said in a statement.
The Department of State in February completed a risk-limiting audit of 45,000 ballots from 63 of the state’s 67 counties, which confirmed the accuracy of the statewide result of the presidential election “within a fraction of a percentage point.”
Pa. Republican lawmakers and the U.S. Capitol attack As part of WITF’s commitment to standing with facts, and because the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was an attempt to overthrow representative democracy in America, we are marking elected officials’ connections to the insurrection. Read more about this commitment.
Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) and Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-Adams) are among the several dozen state lawmakers who signed letters asking Congress to delay or object to certifying Pennsylvania’s 2020 election result, despite no evidence that would call that result into question. U.S. Rep. Perry (PA-10) is among the 136 members of Congress who voted to object to the state’s certified election result.
This supported the election-fraud lie, which led to the attack on the Capitol. To see the complete list of Pa. elected officials who took actions to sustain or amplify the election-fraud lie, click here.