Pennsylvania Republicans are feuding anew over their pursuit of an Arizona-style partisan review of the 2020 election, with a top GOP lawmaker criticizing a leading election denier in the state and saying he remains committed to the kind of probe that former President Donald Trump has long demanded.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R., Centre) on Friday lashed out at fellow Sen. Doug Mastriano (R., Franklin), a top proponent of the review. Corman said Mastriano failed to get the job done and that he will tap another senator to take up the cause.
Corman’s rebuke came a day after Mastriano said on Facebook that “the powers that be” had stopped him from pursuing an investigation. And Mastriano told the pro-Trump outlet OAN this week that Republican leaders in Harrisburg have “done nothing but stonewall me.”
Mastriano, a likely candidate for governor, sent letters to three counties last month demanding they turn over election-related equipment and ballots for the 2020 general election and 2021 primary. Each refused to comply, and Mastriano had said he planned to issue subpoenas through the committee he chairs. But weeks went by without a committee hearing, and the intra-party fight spilled into public view this week.
Mastriano told OAN he tried to convene a meeting of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee on Aug. 6, but Senate leadership canceled his reservation for a room in the Capitol. Mastriano said Corman also threatened to strip him of his chairmanship and fire his staff if he moved forward with a review.
Jason Thompson, a spokesperson for Corman, said Mastriano’s “story about the committee room drama is little more than a contrived fairy tale.” He said Mastriano’s Capitol staff “has been temporarily reassigned since Mastriano is more concerned with grandstanding than actually getting things done.”
On Friday, Corman said it was “deeply disappointing that Sen. Mastriano has retreated from conducting a forensic investigation of the election in Pennsylvania, and it is discouraging to realize that he was only ever interested in politics and showmanship and not actually getting things done.”
“Despite this setback, we remain committed to conducting a full investigatory audit of recent elections to improve our election system going forward,” Corman said in a statement, the strongest support he has offered of such a review. “We need someone to lead this effort who is more interested in real results than grandstanding at rallies.”
Corman said he is tapping Sen. Cris Dush (R., Jefferson) — who joined Mastriano on a June trip to Arizona to get a firsthand look at the widely criticized partisan review there — to “take up this cause and initiate a thorough review of the election.”
“We remain committed to an open, honest review that will lead to positive changes to restore the public’s faith in our elections,” Corman said.
Trump has previously called out Corman by name, demanding he support an election review. For weeks, Corman mostly refrained from discussing the issue publicly. But earlier this month, he told ABC23 in Johnstown that he’d spoken with Mastriano and that they were “trying to provide oversight that everyone is comfortable with the election process moving forward.”
Corman’s pledge to support an “audit” didn’t satisfy some of Trump’s most vocal supporters, including his chief spokesperson, who accused the senator of lying. By the end of the day, Mastriano’s name had been removed from the Senate GOP’s homepage for the Intergovernmental Operations Committee.
Mastriano, who attended the Jan. 6 rally that preceded the Capitol riot, has long promoted Trump’s false claims of widespread fraud.
Neither he nor Corman has described how a “forensic investigation” would actually work. They have not said how it would be funded, how and where sensitive election equipment and materials would be securely stored, or who would conduct it.
Thompson, Corman’s spokesperson, said the logistics will be worked out in the weeks ahead. “Our goal at this time is to follow a process that is transparent, legally sound, and NOT driven or tainted by politics,” he said in an email.
Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes. State and county audits affirmed the outcome, and there is no evidence of any significant fraud.