Top GOP senator orders change in election integrity plan
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The top Republican in Pennsylvania’s Senate said Friday that he is putting a different senator in charge of an “election integrity” undertaking and removed a senator who had made waves by aiming to carry out an Arizona-style “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 presidential election.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman said he had had “many frustrations” with state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has helped spread former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged against him in Pennsylvania and other battleground states.
Mastriano, R-Franklin, last month kicked off his effort to bring to Pennsylvania a repeat of the Arizona state Senate GOP’s widely discredited and partisan audit of the 2020 election in that state.
Corman’s move set off a round of recriminations Friday, with Mastriano going on right-wing broadcasters to accuse Corman of obstructing his efforts and lying about it. Trump’s spokesperson and allies also took to Twitter to repeat Mastriano’s accusations against Corman, who denied that he had tried to stop Mastriano.
It also underscored how idea of an Arizona-style audit playing out in Pennsylvania had sown discord in the Republican caucus.
Democrats accuse Mastriano of trying to orchestrate a “sham audit,” saying he is seeking to undermine the legitimacy of President Joe Biden’s victory in a bid for Trump’s endorsement to run for governor.
Mastriano last month sent letters to Philadelphia and York and Tioga counties with a sweeping request for access to documents, information and equipment, under threat of a subpoena.
However, Corman said Mastriano issued those letters without getting approval from the Republican caucus and “scared off” the counties, which refused to cooperate.
Mastriano had feuded with Senate GOP leadership over legalities and logistics, such as issuing subpoenas to counties, imposing costs on counties to comply, financing the enterprise with private money, and finding appropriate contractors to carry out the work, Senate Republican officials said.
“To me, he’s not really interested in results, he’s interested in grandstanding, and this is too important of an issue,” Corman said in an interview Friday. “I want someone who wants to get results.”
In any case, Corman said he asked Sen. Cris Dush, R-Bradford, to take over the caucus’ election integrity venture. The details have yet to be worked out, Corman said, but he did not rule out issuing subpoenas to counties or carrying out an Arizona-style audit.
Dush has been aligned with Mastriano, questioning the legitimacy of Biden’s victory and advocating for an Arizona-style election audit in Pennsylvania.
In December, both men signed a letter urging Congress to reject Pennsylvania’s certification of its electors for Democrat Joe Biden, who won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes.
He proposed a resolution to declare November’s election unlawful, and to undo the the result by giving the Republican-controlled Legislature the power to decide the state’s electors. He never formally introduced it.
In June, Dush and Mastriano both traveled to Phoenix to see the Arizona state Senate GOP’s audit up close.
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