(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.
Mastriano’s Dec. 28 letter, addressed to then-acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue, repeated many of the false claims he and other Republican state senators had entertained at a Nov. 25 Senate Majority Policy meeting that featured Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Many of the roughly 18 claims in the five-page letter had already been proven wrong by then, or were debunked after Mastriano wrote the letter.
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.”
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. A spokeswoman for Ryan said she had forwarded a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
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.
Officials of both parties, as well as rulings by state and federal judges, all concluded the 2020 election was free and fair.
Mastriano, meanwhile, joined two other Republican state lawmakers earlier this month on a trip to observe a widely-discredited audit of Maricopa County, Arizona’s election results from last fall. He then called for a similar audit to happen in Pennsylvania, but Republican House and Senate leadership have so far rejected that call.
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.”