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'Subpoena was long overdue': Mastriano faces uncertain future in Jan. 6 probe

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

State Sen. Doug Mastriano risks being held in contempt of Congress if he ignores a subpoena — as many allies of former President Donald Trump have — from the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The Adams County Republican was among six allies of former President Donald Trump subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on Tuesday. Mastriano, who's currently seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination, did not return several requests for comment.

Local Republicans were also silent on the development, while Democrats urged Mastriano to cooperate with investigators.

“This subpoena was long overdue," said Chad Baker, chair of the York County Democrats. "While I would hope he would honor the subpoena and testify truthfully before the House subcommittee, I believe he will cower and run from providing any details regarding his involvement."

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Mastriano was one of several high-profile lawmakers who advocated for an audit of the 2020 election results. He also helped organize bus rides for Trump supporters on Jan. 6 to protest the election results.

A spokesperson for Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said the state senator declined comment. Ward herself questioned President Joe Biden's victory in Pennsylvania.

Otherwise, state and local Republican officials were uniform in their non-response.

In this May 3, 2018, photo, Doug Mastriano, one of eight Republicans running for the U.S. House in Pennsylvania's 13th District, speaks to a crowd of party faithful at the Southeastern Adams Volunteer Emergency Services social hall, in Hanover, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

A letter to Mastriano by the committee instructed Mastriano to turn over documents by March 1 and appear in front of the committee by March 10. The state legislator had not yet responded to the request, nor acknowledged it on his social media accounts, as of Wednesday afternoon.

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The letter claims Mastriano had knowledge of and participated in a plan to present alternate electors in an effort to subvert the presidential election. As evidence, the letter cites tweets by Mastriano in November 2020.

On Nov. 25, 2020, Mastriano organized a more than four-hour meeting with the Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee about spurious claims of election fraud. Shortly after, it was announced Mastriano had tested positive for COVID-19.

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. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Days later, Mastriano introduced a resolution to undo the certification of the Pennsylvania election results, declare the election in dispute and effectively overturn state law by empowering the Republican-controlled Legislature to pick electors. His resolution gained no co-sponsors and died in committee.

After the Jan. 6 attack, Mastriano traveled to Maricopa County, Arizona, to oversee a "forensic audit" that attempted to find irregularities in how the election was run there. No such irregularities were found.

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Locally, Mastriano had been attempting to get counties in Pennsylvania, including York County, to conduct an audit similar to the one conducted in Arizona. That included a threat of a subpoena, which never materialized.

In addition to Mastriano's subpoena, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry was asked to appear for an interview with the committee last year for his role in attempting to overturn the 2020 election. He declined to speak with the committee but — at least as of Wednesday — has not been subpoenaed.

FILE - Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., takes a question from a reporter at a news conference held by the House Freedom Caucus on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Aug. 23, 2021. The committee investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection has requested an interview with Perry. The Republican lawmaker is the first sitting member of Congress the panel has requested to speak with.  (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, File)

Contempt of Congress, defined as the obstruction of the work of Congress or a congressional committee, could be used to force compliance, to punish the person who is showing Congress contempt or to remove the obstruction, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

So far, the criminal charge has been used against Trump aides Stephen Bannon and Mark Meadows for their refusal to cooperate with the probe.

Despite the threat of criminal sanction, Mastriano's subpoena could — somewhat counterintuitively — help him in his quest for the GOP gubernatorial nomination this year.

"For Republican voters that are enamored with this movement within the Trump populist wing, it won't make any negative impact," said Chris Borick, a Muhlenberg College political science professor, "and for those who are not enamored it just reinforces their negativity."

Jerry West of Manchester Township joins a protest outside Congressman Scott Perry's West Manchester Township office Thursday,  Jan. 6, 2022.  About 30 demonstrators marked the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Capitol with the event which was sponsored by CASA. Bill Kalina photo

It's a sentiment echoed by Sam Newton, spokesman for the Democratic Governor Association: “Mastriano and his fellow GOP candidates for Pennsylvania governor will do anything to distinguish themselves from the crowded field — including spreading lies that threaten our democracy — all at the expense of Pennsylvania families.”

That said, Mastriano's primary opponents could still use the subpoena as ammunition against him.

"What they will say is it's dragging us backwards, that candidates like Mastriano if nominated are going to drag us down in a year that should be ours," Borick said. "It'll be packaged, their criticism of folks like Mastriano that focuses on their electability and the future of the party in these moments that are more certainly liability rather than asset." 

In a general election, however, it would prove more of a liability.

"If he does emerge, he will have to wear this in a general election, which is not going to be a positive," Borick said.

Nonetheless, if the recent past is any indication, Mastriano will wear the subpoena as a badge of honor. Odds are, Borick said, he will use the subpoena as evidence that he's being persecuted for his beliefs.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright. 

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, arrives for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's budget address for the 2022-23 fiscal year to a joint session of the Pennsylvania House and Senate in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)