At least five supporters of state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania governor, are facing federal charges for their participation in the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. At least one of the five traveled to Washington on a bus chartered by Mastriano.
Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel whose political career began with his election to the Pennsylvania Senate in 2019, is a supporter of Trump's election lies and a Christian nationalist who supports a total ban on abortion. He led the effort in Pennsylvania to award Trump the state's 20 electoral votes in spite of the actual election results, even attending a White House meeting with Trump to strategize about how to retroactively deny Biden victory in the Keystone State.
Mastriano attended and was tentatively scheduled to speak at the "Stop the Steal" rally held just prior to the insurrection at the Capitol, according to permitting documents for the event. In a statement issued by his office on January 6, Mastriano condemned the violence and said, "When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area and made our way out of the area. At no point did we enter the Capitol building, walk on the Capitol steps or go beyond police lines."
However, footage posted online is reported to show Mastriano crossing abandoned police barricades alongside his wife.
Sandra Weyer of Mechanicsburg, who traveled to Washington on a bus chartered by Mastriano and who donated $500 to his campaign for the Pennsylvania Senate, was one of the more than 2,000 pro-Trump protestors who invaded the Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of President Joe Biden's Electoral College victory in the 2020 presidential election. She was arrested on a felony charge of obstructing Congress and on four misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct and trespassing after she allegedly recorded and encouraged an assault on a New York Times photographer.
William Blauser Jr., who attended the "Stop the Steal" rally, entered the Capitol with the mob holding a sign bearing Mastriano's gubernatorial campaign slogan, "Walk as Free People." Blauser was charged with three misdemeanors and entered a guilty plea to the charge of "parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building."
Blauser traveled to the Capitol with Pauline Bauer, a McKean County pizza shop owner who can be heard in body camera footage taken inside the Capitol rotunda saying, "Bring [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi out here now. We want to hang that fucking bitch" and "Bring them out, they’re criminals … they need to hang." A photo included with FBI case documents shows Bauer wearing a Mastriano shirt on January 5.
Bauer, who has been indicted on five counts and whose trial is scheduled for next month, has been jailed since September 17, 2021. Her requests for pretrial release were denied after she claimed she was "not a person" and not subject to federal law and cited the Bible in an argument with the Trump-appointed judge presiding over her case, rhetoric experts say is used among adherents of the so-called sovereign citizen movement, who believe they are not subject to state or federal law, based on a series of conspiracy theories about the U.S. government.
Donald Smith, a Lindenwold UPS worker, is facing up to a year in prison for entering the Capitol on Jan. 6. Officials said Smith, who was arrested after co-workers reported him to the FBI for boasting about breaking into Pelosi's office and calling the insurrection "the best day of his life," had previously donated $1,000 to Mastriano's state Senate campaign.
Samuel Lazar, who was arrested in July 2021, has posed for photographs with Mastriano at least a half-dozen times, including for several taken after January 6. Lazar, who said of his actions, "I was right at the front, on the tip of the spear, brother. That's where you gotta be," was accused of spraying a chemical irritant at Capitol Police officers and has been charged with assaulting and obstructing law enforcement. Mastriano said he did not know Lazar personally, a claim Lazar's siblings dispute as a politically motivated attempt by Mastriano to create distance from potentially controversial supporters.
"Why would you assume that every politician who takes a picture with someone at an event automatically knows who they are or agree [sic] with what they believe?" Mastriano said in a statement provided to HuffPost.
Mastriano has agreed to testify before the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol over his role in the coordinated Republican effort overturn the results of the 2020 election.
The Pennsylvania general election for governor will be held on November 8. Mastriano will face Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.