WASHINGTON (AP) — Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano appeared briefly Tuesday before the Jan. 6 committee investigating the U.S. Capitol insurrection but shared little as the panel probes Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Mastriano, who was outside the Capitol that day and helped organize efforts in Pennsylvania to submit alternate presidential electors beholden to Trump, cut the interview short. He disputed the validity of the committee and the terms of the appearance, his attorney said.
Mastriano’s attorney, Timothy Parlatore, said his client wanted to be able to record the interview and said little during the brief session, which was over in less than 15 minutes. Parlatore said they plan to challenge the committee in court.
“Their answer to me was, essentially, Mr. Parlatore we’re asking the questions here not you,” Parlatore told abc27. “They refused to even answer.”
Parlatore says he wanted to record the proceedings to protect Mastriano, but the committee refused.
“That would prevent the committee from releasing tiny little edited pieces that out of context would portray the wrong impression.”
The reason behind wanting to record the committee’s interview was to protect Mastriano, says Parlatore.
“He’s not trying to hide the information,” Parlatore told abc27’s Dennis Owens. “He just wants to be able to present it in a way that his rights are protected.”
Mastriano was one of two people expected to provide private interviews Tuesday before the committee, according to a person familiar with the situation who was granted anonymity to discuss it. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also been in talks to testify on Tuesday, CNN and other outlets have reported.
Dickinson College President John Jones, a former federal judge, understands Mastriano’s concern and thinks it’s more prudent to just say no.
“I think his fundamental objection is that he doesn’t want to appear as a star or a co-star of a made-for-TV committee and certainly I can understand running for Governor, he has an aversion to that,” said Jones.
Parlatore says it’s “totally false” that Mastriano never intended to talk to the committee.
“If the committee called me up today and said we will do this live and allow the media to observe the entire thing I will clear my schedule later this week and do it.”
Mastriano’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, responded to Mastriano’s refusal to speak with the committee.
“Mastriano continues to show his complete disdain for our democracy, refusing to answer any questions about his efforts to overturn the last election – while he threatens “to decertify every voting machine in the state” if he doesn’t like who wins in 2024.”
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Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson issued the subpoena for Mastriano back in February as the panel intensified its probe of the “fake electors” scheme, seeking documentation from him and others potentially involved and in close contact with Trump.
The committee “is seeking information about efforts to send false slates of electors to Washington and change the outcome of the 2020 election,” Thompson wrote. “We’re seeking records and testimony from former campaign officials and other individuals in various states who we believe have relevant information about the planning and implementation of those plans.”
Mastriano, who organized two buses from central Pennsylvania for the Trump speech that preceded the violent siege and himself had VIP seating at the rally, walked to the Capitol afterward. He had been scheduled to speak on the Capitol steps that afternoon.
Parlatore told the AP that Mastriano “knows nothing about any insurrection” and did not witness any violence or see any firearms. He said his client would be willing to testify publicly before the panel.
A retired Army officer who beat out several candidates to emerge as the GOP nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, Mastriano has previously been willing to talk to the committee. He also spoke with the FBI last year and said he did not know about a planned insurrection, his lawyer has said.
Mastriano has said he had regular calls with then-President Donald Trump in the months between Trump’s reelection defeat and the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
His attorney sought to shield Mastriano from testifying over the alternative electors plan because it was undertaken when his client was a state senator.
Parlatore told the AP that much of Mastriano’s contacts with Trump in the lead-up to Jan. 6 involved Mastriano’s capacity as a state lawmaker — a status that complicates the committee’s efforts to interview him about what the lawyer described as “alternative electors” to the Electoral College.
Parlatore said he planned to file a court action in Washington, D.C., federal court, seeking to have a judge determine if Jan. 6 committee’s makeup and procedures violate House rules.
The committee is working through August, deepening its work after blockbuster public hearings this summer that began to outline its investigation into Trump’s multi-pronged effort to reverse his election loss to Joe Biden and the subsequent storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
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The scheme to compile alternative electors emerged as a last-ditch plan by Trump’s team to stop Biden’s victory when Congress met for the typical routine job of certifying the state election results.
Growing from Trump’s false claims of voter fraud, the fake electors strategy relied on having several battleground states that Biden won submit their tally for the defeated Republican president, rather than the Democratic winner, Biden.
Federal authorities earlier this summer issued subpoenas in several key battleground states across the nation to individuals in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and other Republican officials potentially involved in the strategy to submit electors for Trump.
Prosecutors in Georgia are similarly probing Trump’s attempt to subvert the election results in that state.
The Justice Department has charged more than 800 people in the deadly Capitol riot and is investigating Trump’s actions in the run up and aftermath of the insurrection.
The Jan. 6 attack left at least nine people killed in the riot and its aftermath, including a Trump supporter shot by police and a police officer who died later.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report