Jan. 6 committee outlines how GOP congressman Scott Perry pushed to restructure Justice Department

In the days leading up to the Jan. 6, 2020, attack on the U.S. Capitol, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry(R-PA) pushed to restructure the Department of Justice as former President Donald Trump and his allies led efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The U.S. House committee investigating the Capitol riot subpoenaed Perry, R-10th District, last year, citing his involvement in attempts to appoint Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.

Clark, a former Justice Department official, played a role in Trump’s false claims that voter fraud in swing states, specifically Georgia, contributed to his loss against now-President Joe Biden.

Though Perry has refused to testify before the panel, he was a core focus at Thursday’s hearing, which centered on efforts to pressure the Justice Department into supporting unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

“Mark, just checking in as time continues to count down. 11 days to [Jan. 6] and 25 days to inauguration. We gotta get going,” Perry wrote to the former president’s Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Dec. 26, 2020.

He added: “Mark, you should call Jeff. I just got off the phone with him, and he explained to me why the principal deputy won’t work, especially with the FBI. They will view it as not having the authority to enforce what needs to be done.”

The committee — citing a White House visitor log — said Perry also brought Clark to meet with Trump on Dec. 22, one day after Republicans, including Perry, met with Trump to discuss how to overturn the election.

Earlier this month, the committee said Perry later sought a presidential pardon in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, a claim Perry has denied.

In a January 2021 statement to WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Perry’s office said: “Throughout the past four years, I worked with Assistant Attorney General Clark on various legislative matters. When President Trump asked if I would make an introduction, I obliged.”


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Doctor for John Fetterman says the Democratic Senate nominee has cardiomyopathy

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — also the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee — who suffered a stroke last month also had a previously undisclosed heart condition that prompted doctors to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator into his heart.

His campaign released a letter from a doctor on Friday afternoon, saying that Fetterman, 52, has cardiomyopathy, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. The statement was the first public comment made by a doctor for Fetterman since he disclosed the stroke on May 15.

Ramesh R. Chandra, a cardiologist at Alliance Cardiology, said Fetterman should be able to campaign and serve in elected office as long as he takes his medications, eats healthy, and exercises.

Chandra said he first treated Fetterman in 2017 and diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation, which caused the stroke. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm. Chandra said he prescribed medications, diet, and exercise and asked Fetterman to follow up in the following months.

But Fetterman did not see a doctor for five years and stopped taking his medications.

“The prognosis I can give for John’s heart is this: If he takes his medications, eats healthy, and exercises, he’ll be fine,” Chandra said. “If he does what I’ve told him, and I do believe that he is taking his recovery and his health very seriously this time, he should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem.”

Fetterman will see Chandra again in six months.

In a statement, Fetterman said he isn’t proud of his actions, referencing not going to the doctor and failing to take his medications.

“Because ignoring them — and avoiding the doctor because you might not like what they have to tell you — could cost you your life,” he said. “I want to emphasize that this was completely preventable. My cardiologist said that if I had continued taking the blood thinners, I never would have had a stroke.”

He added: “I didn’t do what the doctor told me. But I won’t make that mistake again. Taking care of others is important, but you must include yourself in there too.”

On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairperson Nancy Patton Mills told reporters that they are not concerned about whether Fetterman’s health will be a concern on the campaign trail.

“I think most families know that people have health challenges all the time, and they need to have some time to recover from that,” Casey said. “And they get back on their feet, and they go back to work. That’s what John Fetterman’s going to do.”


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

How the Supreme Court order could impact narrow Pa. GOP U.S. Senate race

In an order issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the tabulation of some mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania.
The decision, issued by Justice Samuel Alito, paused a lower court ruling in a lawsuit over a 2021 judicial candidate in Lehigh County that would have permitted mail ballots returned on time — but missing a handwritten date from the voter — to count toward final results.

The action could affect the narrow margin between GOP U.S. Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick, who are separated by less than 1,000 votes in the Pennsylvania primary race. Lawyers for the candidates appeared in Commonwealth Court earlier Tuesday to argue whether timely — yet undated — ballots should count toward final results.

The order from the nation’s highest court freezes the issue until it can give further consideration.

Earlier this month, the Department of State advised counties to count and segregate the ballots in anticipation of legal challenges.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

What to know about the Pa. GOP U.S. Senate race recount

Pennsylvania’s top election official announced this week that the Republican U.S. Senate primary race is in for a recount.
“The recount will be conducted transparently as dictated by law,” acting Secretary of State Leigh Chapman told reporters during a press conference on Wednesday. “The affected candidates or their attorney representatives are entitled to be present and observe the proceedings.”

The margin between GOP candidates Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick is enough to trigger an automatic statewide recount, with less than 0.5 percent of the vote separating them as of Thursday afternoon.

Both candidates have expressed confidence in the race and facing Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee, in November.

While Oz maintains a narrow lead, McCormick has filed a lawsuit to ensure that undated and incorrectly dated mail ballots still returned by 8 p.m. on Election Day count toward final totals. Earlier this week, the Department of State issued guidance to counties, telling them to segregate and tabulate the undated ballots separately.

Here’s what to know about recounts and what comes next:

Who carries out a recount?

Counties carry out the recount process.

Local election officials must recount all ballots with a different method than the initial tabulation, or they can tabulate by hand.

When does the recount start?

Chapman said she plans to issue the formal declaration of a recount by 5 p.m. on Thursday. Counties could start the process as soon as Friday.

The law requires that counties begin the recount no later than June 1.

How long does a recount take?

Counties must finish the recount by noon on June 7, with final results due to the Department of State by noon on June 8.

How much will a recount cost?

The Department of State estimates that the recount will cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

Is a recount required?

Pennsylvania law requires an automatic statewide recount if 0.5 percent or less of the vote separates the leading two candidates.

The candidate with the second-highest number of votes could waive the recount requirement, but McCormick has not.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

With court expected to strike Roe v. Wade, Pa.’s governor race could determine abortion access

As the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, states will decide whether to restrict or ban abortion access.
And with the primary election in Pennsylvania two weeks away, the battle over reproductive rights will continue on the ballot while one Democrat and nine Republicans seek their parties’ respective nomination for top executive.

According to an internal initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, obtained by POLITICO, the nation’s highest court has voted to overturn the 1973 decision granting abortion a constitutional right and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a 1992 decision that maintained the right. POLITICO first reported the opinion late Monday night, prompting an outcry from reproductive rights advocates, and Democrats vowing to work and protect abortion access in their respective states.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat and former Planned Parenthood volunteer, has vowed to veto any legislation restricting abortion access. Wolf has vetoed three bills curtailing the procedure that the Republican-controlled Legislature passed.

But with the term-limited governor leaving office in January 2023 and a series of proposals to limit abortion access circulating in the General Assembly, abortion access has become a centerpiece in the gubernatorial race.

“Republicans’ attacks on abortion access, birth control, and women’s health care have made it crystal clear that the stakes of our 2022 elections couldn’t be higher,” Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills said in a statement. “Republicans have spent the last decade trying to strip health care access away from women and families, and this ruling would be a win for radical opponents of health care.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the only Democrat running for governor, has long spoken against restricting abortion access. During a December press conference on reproductive rights, Shapiro said the court was “sadly” moving to take away the right to a “safe, legal abortion for women all across America.”

As the commonwealth’s top prosecutor, Shapiro filed a brief in the Mississippi case, which the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed last year, urging the court to reject the law that makes abortions illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. He also filed an amicus brief to support a challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice to the abortion ban after six weeks of pregnancy — and without exceptions for incest or rape — signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

“A woman’s right to choose and make decisions over her own body is on the ballot,” Shapiro tweeted Monday night. “There is one way to ensure we protect abortion rights in Pennsylvania — winning the governor’s race.”

A March 2022 poll by Franklin & Marshall College showed that only 13 percent of Pennsylvanians said abortion should be illegal under all circumstances. Thirty-one percent said it should be illegal under any circumstances, and 53 percent said the procedure should be allowed under certain circumstances.

More than a dozen state legislatures have imagined a post-Roe era, with bills to limit abortion access. And if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark case, more could follow.

Current Pennsylvania law permits abortion for any reason, except for selecting a gender, as long as six months — or 24 weeks — into a pregnancy. In 2019, the state Health Department reported 31,018 abortions.

Pennsylvania Republicans have proposed limitations on abortion providers, including a bill that requires fetuses receive pain medication before an abortion.

The Republican candidates vying for governor in Pennsylvania are united in curtailing abortion access. But they are divided on how to handle legislation restricting the procedures, especially on timelines for bans and exceptions for rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, who is running for governor, is the lead sponsor on a bill that would ban abortion as early as six weeks, which is before most people know they are pregnant. Commonly dubbed “heartbeat bills,” the proposals, according to medical experts, are misleading because an embryo does not yet have a developed heart at six weeks gestation.

During a debate last week, Mastriano reiterated his support for restricting abortion access and passing the so-called “heartbeat bill.” He said he does not support exceptions in cases of rape or incest.

Former congressman Lou Barletta, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, and businessman Dave White, all GOP gubernatorial hopefuls who participated in last week’s forum, said they would support legislation restricting abortion access.

Barletta and McSwain said they would allow for exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is at risk, rape, or incest. Former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart said Pennsylvania needs to protect mothers and children.

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Nche Zama, a retired cardiothoracic surgeon, has also said he would support a total ban on abortions — with no timeline — in Pennsylvania if Roe v. Wade was overturned, including prohibiting exceptions for rape or incest.

“I believe that life begins at conception, and if life begins at conception, that baby ought to be taken all the way to the end of the spectrum to delivery,” Zama said. “And any intervention within that spectrum is wrong.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, has voted in favor of legislation restricting abortion access. He also joined his Republican colleagues on stage at last fall’s March for Life in Harrisburg.

During a debate last month, Corman — asked whether he would sign legislation similar to the Texas abortion ban — said: “We have to wait to see what the courts allow us to do.” He later said he would sign legislation allowing exceptions for rape, incest, or if the mother’s life is at risk.

Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale said he has prayed for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, saying that the decision to allow or restrict abortion should be left to the states.

“There’s no gray area when it comes to life,” Gale said, adding that he would support legislation restricting abortion and back challengers to Republican incumbents who vote against bills limiting reproductive rights.

Charlie Gerow, a conservative activist, said he supports banning abortion. He said he would sign GOP-drafted bills circulating in the Legislature and vetoed by Wolf. He criticized Shapiro for declaring that “abortion is healthcare.”

In February, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates urged Pennsylvania voters to vote in the upcoming election, saying that reproductive rights are always on the ballot, but especially now that Wolf — the sole barrier against legislation sponsored by the Republican-controlled General Assembly that would restrict access to abortion — is leaving office.

“We’ve had a champion in the governor’s mansion. And we are going to work tirelessly with our supporters, our partners, and all the folks who are ready to do this work to ensure that we have another reproductive rights champion in the governor’s mansion,” PPPA Executive Director Signe Espinoza added.

In the crowded and widely-watched U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania, every Democrat said last week that keeping Roe v. Wade would be a “litmus test” for any future U.S. Supreme Court nominee. Meanwhile, every GOP candidate supports restricting abortion access, with only some exceptions.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

'This is a charade': Pennsylvania Democrats walk out of GOP-led election hearing

The Pennsylvania Senate committee that’s investigating the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections saw a walkout from Democratic members after its Republican chairperson refused to swear in a conservative panel during its first public meeting since last September.

“The Democrats will not participate in a kangaroo operation that is set up with no bipartisanship conversation beforehand, as is the case of all of the hearings that we do in this body,” Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, shouted as the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee sat at ease Thursday.

Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who chairs the Republican-controlled panel, briefly suspended the hearing — publicly advertised as a meeting on ballot drop boxes — after Hughes directed a line of questions to Lehigh County Republican Committee Chairperson Joseph Vichot about a video showing an individual placing a handful of papers into a drop box in Lehigh County.

Vichot, joined by three other conservative panelists, did not take an oath to swear that his remarks were truthful despite requests from Hughes and Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, that Dush swear in the panelists — a typical practice at legislative hearings.

“Without being sworn in, it puts the veracity of truth in question,” Hughes, who has repeatedly blasted the GOP-initiated election investigation, told the Capital-Star after leaving the meeting.

Hughes left about an hour after Costa urged his colleagues to leave the meeting, which he described as a “waste” of taxpayer dollars. Costa added that the “number of senseless hearings” the General Assembly has conducted since the 2020 election to “support the erroneous claims of fraud [is] incalculable.”

“This is a charade,” Costa, who joined remotely, said. “You’re looking at evidence that’s ridiculously put together by your team, your people.”

Leslie Osche, a Republican county commissioner from Butler County, Jessica Morgan, a Republican judge of elections in Luzerne County, and John Lott, a conservative who is now president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, also offered remarks on Thursday without swearing an oath.

All of the conservative panelists expressed frustration with ballot drop boxes.

Hughes said that Democratic committee members did not have time to prepare for Thursday’s hearing or invite participants to speak about ballot drop boxes.

Efforts to review past elections come after former President Donald Trump and his allies launched a months-long campaign to promote baseless claims of voter fraud and election misconduct to justify his loss to now-President Joe Biden, who won in Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes.

Legal challenges to the results failed in court, and two post-election audits carried out in Pennsylvania after the presidential election found no evidence of fraud.

Democrats have dubbed the election review in Pennsylvania as a “sham.” They’ve also raised concerns about Sens. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and Judy Ward, R-Blair, sitting on the committee because of their ties to a third-party election review in Fulton County that ultimately resulted in the Department of State decertifying the county’s voting machines.

Earlier this year, Mastriano, a Trump ally who funded a bus trip to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, also received a subpoena from the U.S. House committee investigating the Capitol riot.

In June, Mastriano launched a so-called “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election and made a sweeping request for election equipment and voter information in Philadelphia, York, and Tioga counties.

Since Dush replaced Mastriano as the committee’s chairperson in August, the panel issued a legislative subpoena for millions of voters’ driver’s license numbers and partial Social Security numbers as part of the taxpayer-funded review.

The legal request is tied up in court, with legislative Democrats and Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro challenging the subpoena.

The Senate Republican caucus also entered into a contract agreement with Envoy Sage, LLC, an Iowa-based company, to help carry out the election review. Democrats have also expressed concerns about the firm’s credentials and security policies.

Dush said that Republican committee members didn’t know about the hearing “until about two days ago.”

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Dush defended his decision not to swear-in meeting participants, saying: “I wanted this to be more informative and free-flowing in the way that the discussion went. I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t have that kind of cooperation. My testifiers were willing to answer any question.”

In September, Fulton County Commissioner Stuart Ulsh, a Republican, appeared before the panel to testify about election guidance issued ahead of the 2020 general election. He was sworn in before offering a prepared statement and answering questions from committee members.

In the weeks and months after the fall hearing, lawmakers and government watchdogs raised concerns about inconsistencies in Ulsh’s testimony. Text messages obtained by the Capital-Star and other media outlets through open records requests also contradict Ulsh’s statements.

Dush added that the Senate committee received a letter and sworn affidavit to clarify Ulsh’s testimony. The documents will be added to the committee’s records, Dush told reporters.

“We need to be able to tell the whole story … my actions speak to the intent that I want this to be a nonpartisan thing because I just want the facts,” Dush said, adding that he’s willing to discuss election integrity measures with opposing parties.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

NOW WATCH: Judge blocks all new FL voter suppression laws — then knocks the Supreme Court for putting voting rights 'under siege'

Judge blocks all new Florida voter suppression laws — then knocks the Supreme Court www.youtube.com

Trump ally hit with Jan. 6 subpoena as committee digs into GOP's phony electors scheme

The House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and efforts to overturn the 2020 election issued subpoenas for six more people Tuesday, including state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin.

Mastriano, an ally of former President Donald Trump and Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate, attended the “Save America” rally, the morning precursor to the deadly riot. He has denied engaging in violence, but the state senator appears to have been much closer to the Capitol than he initially claimed, according to video footage.

In a statement, the U.S. House committee said Mastriano — who did not respond to a call seeking comment — was “part of a plan to arrange for an alternate slate of electors” and reportedly spoke with Trump about “post-election activities.” The panel cited a Nov. 28, 2020, tweet from Mastriano, who said he was advocating for the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature to appoint Electoral College delegates.

Leading up to the 2020 election and in the year since now-President Joe Biden took office, Mastriano has amplified baseless claims of voter fraud. He passed off the wrong information about mail-in ballot totals and hosted a November 2020 hearing in Gettysburg where Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and other supporters parroted unsubstantiated claims of fraud before a panel of Republican lawmakers.

In June, he launched a so-called “forensic investigation” of the 2020 election and made a sweeping request for election equipment and voter information in Philadelphia, York, and Tioga counties.

Mastriano toured the GOP-backed election review in Arizona last summer. He was joined by House Judiciary Committee Chair Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, and Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee Chair Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, who is now leading the taxpayer-funded election investigation.

Since Mastriano, still a member of the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, was stripped of his committee chair assignment, he has stayed quiet about the review and its progress.

He has also refused to speak to his involvement with an election review in Fulton County, carried out by a private firm with ties to Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer who helped file lawsuits to challenge the 2020 election.

Records obtained by the Capital-Star and government watchdogs through Right-to-Know Law requests confirm that Mastriano and Sen. Judy Ward, R-Blair, who also serves on the Senate panel leading the investigation, helped facilitate an off-the-books, third-party review in the rural Pennsylvania county after the 2020 election.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Jan. 6 House committee requests interview with GOP congressman Scott Perry

The select House panel investigating the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol has requested a meeting with Pennsylvania’s Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District, citing evidence that the sitting member of Congress had “an important role” in efforts to appoint Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general.

In a letter sent Monday to Perry, Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, asked for his “voluntary cooperation” in the committee’s investigation into the insurrection and efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

The request, which marks the first time the House panel has publicly asked to interview a sitting member of Congress, comes nearly a year after former President Donald Trump and his supporters launched a campaign of unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, following his loss to now-President Joe Biden.

Perry — a Trump ally who objected to Pennsylvania’s electoral results — and other congressional Republicans met with the former president to plan how they could derail final certification ahead of the violent attack.

“We have received evidence from multiple witnesses that you had an important role in the efforts to install Mr. Clark as acting attorney general,” Thompson wrote, citing evidence from former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue.

On behalf of the committee, Thompson asked for an interview with Perry and cited additional evidence that he communicated with Mark Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, about Clark, as well as with the White House about unsubstantiated claims of corrupted Dominion voting machines.

The letter states that Clark informed the committee that he planned to invoke his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination if deposed by the House committee, with the understanding that “we planned to pose questions addressing his interactions with you,” Thompson wrote to Perry.

“In the weeks before Jan. 6, then-President Trump’s appointees at the Justice Department informed the president repeatedly that his claims of election fraud were not supported by the evidence, and that the election was not, in fact, stolen,” Thompson wrote. “Then-President Trump considered appointing Jeffrey Clark as acting Attorney General, as Mr. Clark pressed his Department of Justice superiors to use agency authorities to challenge the election results.”


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Top Pennsylvania Republican expects subpoenas will be necessary for election investigation

Saying he's doubtful the state agency responsible for election oversight will cooperate with a taxpayer-funded investigation into Pennsylvania's two most recent elections, the top Senate Republican expects subpoenas will be the next step.

This article was originally published at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, isn't hopeful acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid will participate in the first hearing as part of a probe into the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections.

Currently scheduled for Thursday, the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee meeting will focus on guidance issued by the Department of State to counties during the 2020 election.

“My guess is she won't come," Corman said of Degraffenreid during a podcast interview with former Trump administration adviser Steve Bannon. “If they do not come in and cooperate, then we will begin to issue subpoenas to get the information that we're looking for from the Department of State."

A spokesperson for the Department of State told the Capital-Star that no one from the agency will participate in the hearing, saying that it “directly relates to ongoing litigation filed against the department by members of the General Assembly."

Corman accused Degraffenreid, who took over after former Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar resigned in February, of “intimidating" county leaders since the review began, citing a July directive that bans third-party access to election equipment.

Corman, who has argued that there were election “irregularities" in 2020, tapped Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, to replace Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, as the panel's chairperson.

Dush invited the Department of State and local officials to testify. The 11-member panel also invited the public to submit “any potential violations of election law or voting irregularities they have witnessed personally" to an online form. The committee could ask those who submit information to sign an affidavit and testify under oath at a future hearing.

In an August statement, Dush said the purpose of the investigation is “to uncover information" for potential legislative action. His office has referred questions about the review to Corman, who said the review is not a recount.

Jason Thompson, a spokesperson for Corman, told the Capital-Star that the taxpayers will be paying for the probe. He added that the panel will also incorporate hearings conducted by the Senate State Government Committee, which began last month with testimony from the Department of State, as part of the investigation.

But if the Department of State fails to participate in Thursday's hearing, Corman said the Senate panel should “quickly" issue subpoenas to acquire election information.

“I don't want to get too far in front of Cris Dush, but that would be my intention and my desire," Corman told Bannon. “Again, I think we have to be prepared that they're not going to cooperate."

Two post-election reviews — a statistical sampling required by law and a risk-limiting audit — were conducted after the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. Sixty-three out of the commonwealth's 67 counties participated in the risk-limiting audit pilot, and neither assessment found evidence of fraud.

Certified results show that former President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania. In the same cycle, Republicans triumphed in state races — maintaining their legislative majorities in Harrisburg.

The latest review also comes after the House State Government Committee hosted 10 hearings with 52 testifiers on the 2020 general election.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, is the only GOP senator to publicly oppose the review, which could resemble the controversial Republican-backed election investigation in Arizona.

In July, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, and Sen. Anthony Williams, D-Philadelphia, sent a letter to Corman and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, urging them to stop the review. Costa and Williams sit on the committee responsible for the investigation. Gov. Tom Wolf called the investigation a “disgrace to democracy," and Attorney General Josh Shapiro dubbed it a “sham" that will create chaos and promised to challenge the review legally.

“The attorney general was on the ballot the last election as well, so he sort of has a conflict," Corman told Bannon. “Our auditor general, a Republican who was elected, who we asked to do an audit, said he didn't feel that he could do it because he was on the ballot the last election."

Six lawmakers, who sit on the Senate committee, were elected during the 2020 general election, including Sens. Scott Hutchinson, R-Venango, David Argall, R-Schuylkill, Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, Dush, Costa, and Mastriano.

“We're going to invite county employees, county officials, who may have a story to tell about how things went down on Election Day," Corman said, noting that he isn't sure which counties the committee will focus on. “We're not subpoenaing their information as of yet, but we'll probably get to that point soon."

He added: “If we have to get emails, if we have to get communications, we want to know."


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pennsylvania lawmaker says he's taking election probe 'very seriously' after feud with pro-Trump colleague

The Pennsylvania lawmaker now tasked with leading an investigation into the state's elections says he's taking the newfound responsibility “very seriously."

“We should have been having hearings and moving toward a more formalized plan to conduct an investigation weeks ago," Sen. Cris Dush, R-Jefferson, said in a statement released late Friday. “My team and I are in the process of getting things organized and will work with Senate leadership to get it done."

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, announced Friday that Dush would be taking over a review initially launched and led by Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, in July.

The change has resulted in a political feud, with Mastriano — a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump — accusing Corman of “stonewalling" his efforts to conduct a review into the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections. Mastriano's supporters, including right-wing One America News Network personality Christina Bobb, have alleged that Corman appointed Dush to block the probe altogether.

Audit the Vote PA, a group that promotes unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, called on Corman to let Mastriano lead the investigation, citing a possible financial “conflict of interest" if Dush leads the investigation.

Dush, who chairs the Senate Local Government Committee, said: “The opposite is true."

His statement also came after Corman told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who hosts the online broadcast “Bannon's War Room," that he is “a hundred percent on board" with an investigation.

“The purpose of this investigation is to uncover information which is necessary for the Legislature to potentially take future legislative action," Dush said, highlighting his military service and experience as an insurance investigator. “I look forward to putting my years of experience with legal cases, court proceedings, and evidence collection to good use in restoring faith in our elections."

Earlier this summer, Dush toured the GOP-backed election probe facility in Arizona with Mastriano and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin. The review, carried out by a cyber security company with no experience auditing elections, served as a model for what Mastriano proposed in Pennsylvania.

Dush was one of 21 Senate Republicans to sign a letter asking Congress to delay certification of Pennsylvania's Electoral College results after the 2020 election. Sen. Pat Browne, R-Lehigh, is the only Republican on Dush's committee who did not sign the Jan. 4, 2020 request.

Trump, who lost by 80,555 votes in Pennsylvania, led a campaign questioning the validity of the 2020 election. While some legislative Republicans have latched on to unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and voter misconduct, others — including Corman — have argued there are “irregularities" worth investigating

They have also accused the Department of State, which oversees elections, of altering the electoral process.

As required by law, all 67 Pennsylvania counties conducted post-election audits of a sampling of ballots. Sixty-three counties conducted “risk-limiting" audits following the 2020 election. Neither review found evidence of widespread voter fraud or election misconduct.

Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia also have faced calls to review the 2020 presidential election, despite no evidence of a “rigged" election.

Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, is the only Senate GOP lawmaker to oppose an election review publicly. In an op-Ed, he said the “only credible result" of the Arizona review was an “undermined public trust in democracy and a cost of millions of dollars to taxpayers." He urged his colleagues — on both sides of the aisle — to focus on governing and move on from previous elections.

But Senate Republican leadership is committed to a review, just without Mastriano, who “is more interested in rallies and press conferences than actually doing the hard work," Corman told the Capital-Star.

During a Monday morning interview with media personality Wendy Bell, Corman reiterated his commitment to conducting a “full forensic audit" of the 2020 general and 2021 primary elections. He said hearings on the investigation could begin this week, adding that Senate leaders are working to research “and do this perfectly" to avoid legal challenges.

Corman told Bell that he's spoken with Arizona Senate leadership to learn more about the GOP-backed review in Maricopa County and with Trump “on numerous occasions."

“I think he's comfortable with where we're heading," Corman said of the former president.

Corman's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how the review will be funded.

Dush did say that updates won't be regular, telling the public: “I will be treating evidence as evidence and not as a means of obtaining publicity."

He added: “You may be frustrated with not hearing updates as quickly as you would like, but there is an investigative need to hold that evidence close until the review is completed."

Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, vowed to challenge any attempts to investigate Pennsylvania's elections.

In a move criticized by Corman and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid also issued a directive, which is still in effect, that prohibits third-party access to voting machines. If a county disobeys the order, its election equipment faces decertification.

But to challengers of the review, Dush concluded: “I will not stand idly by if you threaten county and other officials and stand in the way of transparency and legislative oversight of our elections. The Senate has the authority to conduct this investigation, and we will do so in a responsible manner."


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Pro-Trump lawmaker says the cause for a forensic election investigation is ‘weakened and diminished’

(*This story was updated at 12:48 p.m. on Thursday, 8/19/21, to note that Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, deleted the Facebook live from his profile.)

Saying his cause had “been weakened and diminished," a Republican state lawmaker behind an Arizona-style investigation of Pennsylvania's election results has pressed pause on the probe.

The announcement from state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, came during a since-deleted Thursday morning Facebook live stream before an audience of more than 1,000 supporters.

Mastriano, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, announced plans to pursue a “forensic investigation" into Pennsylvania's 2020 general and 2021 primary elections in July. He made a sweeping request for voting equipment and election information from York, Tioga, and Philadelphia counties.

However, the three counties — two of them reliably Republican areas, and one Democratic stronghold — refused to comply, citing the cost of replacing election equipment and a directive from the Department of State prohibiting third-party access to voting machines.

In July, Mastriano said he wasn't surprised the local governing boards for the counties declined to participate.

He told Chambersburg-based News Talk radio host Pat Ryan that subpoenas would have the counties added legal protection. At the time, Mastriano, who chairs the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, a seldom-used committee that typically does not oversee election issues, said the 10-member panel would meet in one to two weeks to vote on issuing subpoenas.

But on Thursday, Mastriano, without offering evidence or specific details, told followers: “The powers-that-be made sure that didn't happen."

“We're not in a very good spot right now," he said. “I put my name out there to get it done, and I've been stopped for the time being. If there's a way I could do it without being stopped, a way around this momentary impediment, you know I would find it."

Mastriano, who did not respond to a request for comment, opted not to explain how his proposed investigation reached a stall during the stream. Instead, he cited a “betrayal" from a group that worked with him to advocate for the review. He did not identify the group.

“I've warned these ladies — don't let it get to your head," he said. “Watch out for pride. Remember those who helped you get there, and it's already forgotten. The star will burn out."

Earlier this week, Mastriano appeared at an “Audit the Vote" rally hosted by Women for America First, a conservative group, with state Reps. Dawn Keefer, R-York, and Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, to advocate for the proposed investigation. He's also attended events held by Audit the Vote PA, a group that promotes unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

Mastriano has previously suggested on social media that Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, is to blame for the delay. Mastriano retweeted a user urging Corman to back Mastriano and Audit the Vote earlier this month.

That same day, a local TV station ran a segment saying Corman supports an election investigation. Still, Mastriano said Thursday he is “finding it really hard to see a way forward."

“When you have unity of effort, people stand together, and they're not undercutting. I am the lead voice in this fight, and when people want to fracture off that, the forensic investigation might not happen … there's only so much I can do as one of 50 senators," Mastriano said.

He added: “But if the people stand with us in unity, the forensic investigation will move forward."

At least one of Mastriano's Republican colleagues in a less-red district has expressed skepticism about the proposed investigation. State Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, said in an op-Ed that a similar review in Arizona undermined public trust in elections, and urged his colleagues to focus on more pressing issues.

Democrats have also used the issue to hit incumbents in the blue-trending regions around Philadelphia and Allentown ahead of the 2022 elections and the coming redraw of the legislative maps.

In a series of Facebook ads running this month, the state Democratic Party has encouraged voters to contact state Sens. Bob Mensch and Tommy Tomlinson, of Bucks County, and Pat Browne, of Lehigh County about the election investigation.

All won reelection by slim margins — Tomlinson by just 74 votes — in 2018.

The near-identical ads state that the lawmakers are “doing nothing to protect his voters' ballots and privacy against a sham election audit."

Enough is enough," they continue, urging voters to tell them to “stand up against Trump-Republicans' circus!"

Capital-Star Staff Reporter Stephen Caruso contributed to this story.


Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.