This article was updated on Friday, Jan. 8 with comment from Mastriano’s office.
Senate Republican leaders said Thursday they did not have cause to censure one of their members who attended a protest at the U.S. Capitol and has waged a disinformation campaign against Pennsylvania’s election results.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, issued a statement Thursday afternoon defending the right of Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, to attend the Wednesday pro-Trump protest that spawned a violent takeover of the U.S Capitol building.
Corman said he would not heed the calls of his Democratic colleagues, who said Mastriano’s attendance at the protest and his embrace of conspiracy theories about the presidential election disqualified him from serving in the Senate.
“One of our fundamental rights is that of peaceful assembly,” Corman said in the prepared statement. “I talked with Senator Mastriano who shared with me that he and his wife attended the political rally in Washington, D.C., but left as the horrific turmoil began to unfold. He assured me that he did not participate in any unlawful activities. Absent facts to the contrary, the Senate has no cause to act.”
Mastriano’s office responded to repeated requests for comment Friday by referring to a statement the Senator issued earlier in the week, where he condemned the violence at the Capitol and said he never set foot in the building.
Appointed to the Senate in a 2019 following a special election, Mastriano won a full term in 2020. He’s among the legislative Republicans who have most vocally embraced the false claims by President Donald Trump and his supporters that Trump lost the presidential race in Pennsylvania due to voter fraud – claims that have not held up in courts.
It was at Mastriano’s request that the Senate majority policy committee convened a public hearing on election security in November, where Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others offered testimony airing unsubstantiated claims about election fraud.
Mastriano has also amassed a vast Facebook following during his short tenure, counting more than 161,000 followers on his official Senate page and more than 90,000 on a personal page he uses to promote campaign events.
Since November, he’s used both to amplify conspiracy theories about Pennsylvania’s election results, which were audited and certified by county officials before being finally approved by the Secretary of State in December.
During a December Facebook Livestream that garnered 20,000 views, Mastriano said there had been “shenanigans at some of the polls, especially in Democratic areas” and “election fraud all over the place.”
In appearance on the pro-Trump television outlet Newsmax on Monday, which he posted to his official Senate page, Mastriano made the baseless claim that Pennsylvania saw an “unprecedented level of fraud” in the 2020 presidential election, and said Congress should delay the Electoral College vote count scheduled for two days later.
“We can’t say who really won the state,” Mastriano said, citing debunked theories about fake ballots and discrepancies in vote totals. “If they were corrupted and compromised, the results need to be disputed… Pennsylvania needs more time.”
A senate Republican spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking whether the caucus leaders had attempted to disabuse Mastriano of those theories or prevent him from spreading them.
Mastriano also used the Newsmax appearance to announce that he and 20 Senate Republican colleagues had sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them not to certify Pennsylvania’s election results.
The letter – which was signed by Corman and Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland – did not repeat Mastriano’s allegations of fraud. It argued instead that officials needed more time to investigate “inconsistencies” in how counties administered Pennsylvania’s new vote-by-mail law.
One lawmaker publicly withdrew his support for that effort after the violence erupted in the Capitol Wednesday.
Gov. Tom Wolf issued a statement Wednesday saying Republican lawmakers were at least partially to blame for Wednesday’s historic insurrection, calling it a “direct result” of disinformation.
“Republican legislators enabled this every step of the way,” Wolf said. “They’ve held show trials to gin up President Trump’s supporters. They’ve intentionally spread disinformation.”