Republicans who want to be Pennsylvania’s next governor are taking two paths with former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
Some, like State Sen. Doug Mastriano and former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, court Trump’s support by echoing his false claims and cozying up to his demand for a new investigation of Pennsylvania’s results.
Others, like former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, seek to quietly sidestep the last election while urging the party to focus on big races in 2022 and 2024.
But last week Trump tried to drag McSwain into the first group.
“We have a U.S. attorney in Philadelphia that says he wasn’t allowed to go and check Philadelphia,” Trump told the crowd during a rally Saturday in Sarasota, Fla., while again pushing debunked claims about voter fraud. “That’s a big statement. I’ll tell you who didn’t allow him some day. I’ll do it at my next rally. But could you imagine this?”
It was classic Trump: Make a head-turning assertion, offer zero proof, use one person to attack another, and then tease it like a cliff-hanger for must-see TV.
Also, it doesn’t check out.
McSwain, appointed by Trump and still serving as the top federal law enforcement official in eastern Pennsylvania in November, announced two weeks before the election all the efforts his office took to guard against voter fraud.
Clout is certain a politically ambitious prosecutor — who says he will decide by early fall on a campaign for governor — would have filed charges if he found a crime. McSwain filed no 2020 voter fraud cases.
But that’s not a subject he’s eager to discuss. McSwain flatly refused to tell Clout in May if he considers Pennsylvania’s 2020 election results to be valid.
He let a few softballs go by during a local conservative radio show interview two weeks ago when asked if he’s “satisfied” with the state’s 2020 results. McSwain pivoted to “a lack of confidence” among Republican voters in elections. He also offered a shrug of support for the kind of partisan election investigation Mastriano is pushing, while also questioning how expensive and difficult that might be.
“We need to be looking forward, rather than litigating 2020, because as a practical matter at this point there’s not much you can do about 2020,” McSwain said on Philadelphia’s AM 990, The Answer.
Clout gave McSwain two days this week to comment about Trump’s claim at the rally. McSwain could muster no words, offering zero response.
So why did Trump do it? He is apparently still smarting about former Attorney General Bill Barr rejecting his claims about widespread voter fraud in December after authorizing federal prosecutors to search for exactly that.
Barr was more direct last week, telling The Atlantic that Trump’s claims were “all bull—.”
That enraged Trump, who responded with a broadside calling Barr a “swamp creature” who had long ago lost his confidence.
That explains how McSwain became a cudgel to bash Barr.
Trump has been complaining for weeks about Pennsylvania Republicans not moving on his demand for a partisan review.
Josh Shapiro wrings cash from 2020 clashes
While the 2022 Republican primary for governor looks to be a crowded affair, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro remains the lone big-name Democrat expected to seek that office.
And Shapiro is not shy about relitigating 2020 — for fun and fund-raising.
Shapiro dunked on Rudy Giuliani two weeks ago when his law license was suspended in a New York ruling that said he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” while acting as Trump’s attorney and trying to overturn the election. Shapiro’s office had filed a petition in support of Giuliani’s suspension.
A Shapiro tweet was followed by an MSNBC appearance and then the inevitable fund-raising pitch, urging supporters to “fight back” against Giuliani and his ilk by giving Shapiro campaign cash.
He was at it again this week, appearing Tuesday on MSNBC to note that the “handful” of voter fraud cases in the state in 2020 were all committed by Trump supporters.
He followed that with a prime-time CNN hit Wednesday, knocking Mastriano as “an insurrectionist” while denouncing the audit attempt as a potential waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.
Mastriano attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington that devolved into a violent ransacking of the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the presidential election.
Check your inbox for the Shapiro fund-raising follow-up that is sure to come next.
Quotable Vs. Quotable
“I’m going in with an open mind here and with no bias. My bottom line is: Let’s do a scientific review and let the cards fall where they may.” — State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Franklin County Republican, announcing his audit plans on a conservative radio talk show Wednesday.
“I can’t believe that 50 years ago we put a man on the moon and we can put objects on Mars today, but we can’t get an election right. This is 2021. C’mon, man.” — Also Mastriano, two minutes later in that interview, sounding decidedly less open-minded.
Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.