WASHINGTON — An investigation by U.S. Senate Democrats has singled out two Pennsylvania Republicans — U.S. Rep. Scott Perry and State Sen. Doug Mastriano — as key figures who used false and debunked theories to pressure the country’s top law enforcement officials to investigate the state’s 2020 presidential election results.
A report on its findings released Thursday urged House investigators to look more deeply into what role Perry and Mastriano may have played in fomenting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. It named them as two of three key allies of former President Donald Trump who aided his efforts to subvert the election results and have “notable” connections to the insurrection. The third Trump ally mentioned is attorney Cleta Mitchell.
The 394-page report from Democrats on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee showed how Perry and Mastriano directly contacted the Justice Department’s second-ranking official, Deputy Associate Attorney General Richard Donoghue, to reinforce Trump’s baseless claims about the election, and urge the department to investigate debunked accusations.
It also called for more scrutiny on Philadelphia native Jeffrey Bossert Clark, a Justice Department lawyer who emerged as one of the strongest advocates for questioning the election results. After meeting with Trump in the Oval Office, the inquiry found, Clark pressed top DOJ officials to issue a letter announcing they were investigating election fraud in key swing states and to urge lawmakers to appoint alternate slates of electors.
“I see no valid downsides to sending out the letter,” Clark wrote on Dec. 28 to acting U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Rosen and Donoghue, according to the report. Seventy minutes later, Donoghue wrote back: “There is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this.”
Senate investigators say Clark was introduced to Trump by Perry, who later urged top DOJ officials to give Clark more authority over election reviews. The president later considered installing Clark, a Tacony native and Father Judge High School graduate, as acting attorney general in an attempt to get more traction for his false fraud claims. He backed off when top DOJ officials threatened a mass resignation.
“He was, as far as I’m concerned, the ‘Big Lie’ lawyer within the Department of Justice,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, told reporters Thursday.
In January, Perry acknowledged connecting Trump and Clark, issuing a statement saying, he had worked with Clark on legislative issues, adding that “When President Trump asked if I would make an introduction, I obliged.”
The Senate Democrats questioned why Clark, who had been an environmental lawyer for the Trump Justice Department before getting a new role in its Civil Division in September 2020, became so prominent.
“What was peculiar about this was that Clark was not in any obvious position to have anything to do with this. He was the assistant attorney general for the Civil Division and this had nothing to do with the Civil Division,” Durbin said.
He called on the Washington bar to take action against Clark for conduct “inconsistent with his oath as an attorney to serve the cause of justice.”
The Democrats’ report is based on interviews with Rosen, Donoghue, and former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung Jin (“BJay”) Pak, as well as letters, emails, and other documents.
Republicans countered with their own 140-page summary, accusing Democrats of ignoring evidence that “differed sharply from the narrative” they hoped to advance. Trump, they noted, ultimately didn’t fire anyone.
Trump distrusted the Justice Department, said the GOP report, but “he did not weaponize DOJ for his personal or campaign purposes.”
Among the documents included in the investigation are a debunked report Perry forwarded to Donoghue as evidence of potential fraud in Pennsylvania. When it was then passed to the Trump-appointed U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania, Scott Brady, he called its claims “not well founded.”
Other theories the White House urged the department to chase down included an internet rumor about an Italian aerospace company working with the CIA to use military satellites to alter Trump votes, the report said.
“We were half a step away from a full-blown constitutional crisis,” Durbin said Thursday, adding of Trump: “I shudder to think of what this man will do if given another four years.”
Mastriano, who was on the Capitol grounds during the Jan. 6 riot and spent thousands to bus people to the Trump rally that preceded it, is now expected to run for governor and has been a leading figure pushing for a partisan inquiry into the 2020 election. Perry represents a Harrisburg-area House district and led the House efforts to throw out Pennsylvania’s presidential votes, continuing to press the case hours after the riot ended.
Neither Perry nor Mastriano responded to requests for comment the day the report was released.
One day later, Mastriano released a lengthy statement blasting the Democratic investigation as a “hyper-partisan” distraction. The statement did not dispute the evidence laid out in the report.
“The repetitive allegations in this ‘report’ are part of an ongoing, desperate attempt to distract from what progressive policies are doing to our country,” Mastriano said, citing inflation, migrants at the U.S. border and “the Orwellian violation of our personal medical decisions.”
Among the information included in the report and its supporting documents:
— Perry brought Clark to meet with Trump in the Oval Office and later, according to Donoghue’s notes, called Donoghue to praise Clark as “the kind of guy who could really get in there and do something about this.”
Perry’s January statement said his conversations about the election with Trump and others “were a reiteration of the many concerns about the integrity of our elections, and that those allegations should at least be investigated.”
Weeks before that meeting and call, however, the previous attorney general, Bill Barr, had said on Dec. 1 that DOJ had seen no evidence of fraud significant enough to affect the election results.
— Even after Barr’s statement, however, Perry and Mastriano both contacted Donoghue to amplify the pressure to investigate Pennsylvania’s election results.
— Trump specifically cited Perry and Mastriano in a Dec. 27 call with Donoghue and Rosen. After mentioning Perry and Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), he urged the DOJ officials to “just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican Congressmen.”
— Perry later emailed Donoghue a flawed and incomplete analysis arguing that there were more votes than voters in Pennsylvania, which Donoghue sent to Brady, the U.S. attorney for Western Pennsylvania. Months later, Perry has continued citing those statistics to question the election results.
“In reality, Pennsylvania votes cast equaled the same amount as registered voters who voted,” the report said, noting that the “so-called ‘analysis’” was based on incomplete data, “which was clear at the time this allegation was made.”
— Mastriano wrote a letter, eventually sent to Rosen, raising “a litany of false and debunked claims of widespread election fraud in Pennsylvania.”
Mastriano also sent the letter to Bill McSwain, then the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and now a Republican candidate for governor.
Perry and Mastriano’s ties to the pressure on DOJ and potentially to the Jan. 6 riot “warrant further investigation to better place Trump’s efforts to enlist [the Department of Justice] in his efforts to overturn the presidential election in context with the January 6 insurrection,” the report said, urging a House committee investigating the attack to pick up the threads.
Mastriano’s statement said he was in Washington on Jan. 6 to speak at an event adjacent to the Capitol grounds and criticized “this democrat version of McCarthyism against tens of thousands of citizens who broke no laws.” Video from that day appears to show Mastriano passing through breached barricades at the Capitol, after he initially said he had not crossed police lines. Nothing has emerged suggesting he entered the building.
The report comes as Trump strongly hints at another presidential run, and continues promoting the lie that he easily won the 2020 election — and as Republicans in Pennsylvania and other states cite some voters’ doubts about election integrity to justify tightening voting laws. In some cases, new laws would give elected politicians more power in overseeing election results.
It’s unclear what action might follow from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, but it has reportedly already asked telecommunications companies to preserve Perry’s phone records, along with those of several other House Republicans with potential ties to the Trump rally that preceded the attack.
The chairman of that investigation, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Miss.), called the Senate report “alarming.”
“I take to heart the recommendations to the Select Committee, and this report will be an important resource as we work to develop the context in which the events of January 6th occurred,” Thompson said in a statement.
Judiciary Committee Republicans delivered a far different analysis of Trump’s actions.
The Republicans’ report defended Trump but did not mention Perry or Mastriano.
It noted that Donoghue testified that Trump’s pressure had “no impact” on DOJ’s investigation of the election. And they cite testimony saying Trump was making sure officials were “aware” of fraud allegations, rather than ordering them to take specific action.
“At every major decision point with respect to the scope of this investigation, the President met and listened to his most senior advisors,” the GOP analysis concluded.