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Doug Mastriano

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In Pennsylvania’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary, Republican voters in the Keystone State went with their most extreme option: Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a Christian nationalist and far-right conspiracy theorist who has promoted the Big Lie and falsely claimed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump in his state. The primary election, held on Tuesday, May 17, wasn’t even close: Mastriano defeated fellow Republican Lou Barletta by 24 percent and will be going up against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the general election.

Mastriano’s primary victory is being described as a troubling development by a variety of his critics, ranging from liberal Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent to Never Trump conservative Amanda Carpenter. Sargent, in his May 18 column, stresses that Pennsylvania Republicans went with a flat-out “insurrectionist” when they chose Mastriano.

Sargent has been complaining that mainstream media coverage of Mastriano fails to capture just how dangerously authoritarian his views are. And now that Mastriano is officially Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial nominee, Sargent is sounding the alarm even more.


Pennsylvania has had a variety of governors in recent decades, from Republican Tom Ridge (a moderate conservative and Never Trumper who was popular in the Philadelphia suburbs during his two terms) to centrist Democrats such as Ed Rendell (a former two-term Philly mayor who chaired the Democratic National Committee in the early 2000s) and the late Bob Casey, Sr. (father of Sen. Bob Casey, Jr.). But if Mastriano defeats Shapiro in the general election, the Keystone State will have a dangerously authoritarian governor who is way to the right of even former Sen. Rick Santorum.

“For the love of democracy, please stop using the phrase ‘election denier,’” Sargent writes. “Now that Doug Mastriano has won the GOP nomination for governor in Pennsylvania, countless news accounts are describing him with that phrase. This is meant to convey the idea that Mastriano won’t accept Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential reelection loss.”

Sargent continues, “That’s true, but it’s insufficient. Let’s state this plainly: Pennsylvania Republicans just nominated a full-blown insurrectionist who intends to use the power of the office to ensure that, as long as he is governor, no Democratic presidential candidate wins his state again.”

The Post columnist also points out that “Christian nationalism” is a key element of Mastriano’s ideology. In other words, Mastriano believes that God Almighty wants him to throw out election results if they favor Democrats.

“Mastriano’s victory also highlights another story that’s bigger than this one contest: the role of Christian nationalism in fueling the growing insurrectionist streak on the right,” Sargent explains. “This nexus underscores the danger this movement poses in a way that also demands more clarity about the worldview of candidates like Mastriano.”

Sargent adds that Mastriano “is running on what is functionally an open vow to use the power of the governor’s office to nullify future election losses, even if they are procedurally legitimate, and even if he knows this to be the case.”

“When Mastriano tried to help Trump in 2020,” Sargent notes, “he adopted the radical argument that the Pennsylvania legislature had the ‘sole authority’ to reappoint new electors for Trump, because (Joe) Biden’s win was ‘compromised.’ Mastriano’s claim of a ‘compromised’ Biden win, of course, wasn’t tethered to actual facts. But here’s the crucial point: It didn’t have to be. The aim of overturning the election was itself such a righteous goal that the creation of a pretext for accomplishing it was justified on that basis.”

Meanwhile, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on Tuesday night after the Republican primary election was called for Mastriano, Carpenter declares, “Doug Mastriano is an insurrectionist, period.”

Sargent and Carpenter have their differences politically. While Sargent is liberal, Carpenter is among the Never Trumpers who has been condemning the MAGA movement from the right. But one thing they obviously agree on is that Mastriano is quite dangerous. Mastriano, Carpenter notes, “bused supporters to the Capitol on January 6, was photographed on the Capitol grounds, and ever since has sought to use his limited political powers as a Pennsylvania state senator to overturn the election.”



Carpenter points out that “behind the scenes, Republicans have fretted about Mastriano’s candidacy” — fearing that Shapiro would defeat him in the general election. And Shapiro himself, during the primary, said that Mastriano would be the easiest Republican primary candidate to defeat. But Carpenter isn’t so sure.

Carpenter writes, “Do you want to assume Mastriano is going to get shellacked by the super popular, likable, nice man that is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro? The same Shapiro that was so confident that he put out an ad during the GOP primary that looked like he was trying to boost Mastriano’s prospects with Trump voters?”

The conservative adds that in 2016, some pundits insisted that Donald Trump couldn’t defeat Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania. Indeed, the Biden campaign left nothing to chance in the Keystone State in 2020 because they remembered some famous last words from four years earlier: Trump can’t win in Pennsylvania.

Like Sargent, Carpenter points out that the Pennsylvania secretary of state position is chosen by the governor.

“Republicans are still willing to bet our democracy on someone else cleaning their own house for them,” Carpenter warns. “Oh, and keep in mind that in Pennsylvania, the secretary of the commonwealth — the top elections official — is appointed by the governor. Does anyone doubt that Mastriano would fill that position with someone willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Republicans win the state in 2024?”

Carpenter continues, “There’s an obvious lesson: Hoping that Democrats will solve the problems of the Republican Party has been a grave mistake. It’s not often countries get second chances. But if the GOP now gets behind insurrectionists like Mastriano, it’s January 6th forever. Which is exactly what Mastriano is campaigning on.”

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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