Doug Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator and promoter of former President Donald Trump’s false stolen-election claims, is facing a fresh wave of criticism after evidence emerged challenging Mastriano’s claims about his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Mastriano, who describes his entry into politics as a religious mission and has portrayed resistance to pandemic-related mask mandates as a Christian duty, is positioning himself to run for governor.
Mastriano used his state senate campaign funds to charter buses to bring Trump supporters to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Mastriano has since condemned the violence at the Capitol, while claiming that “at no point” had he crossed police lines, entered the Capitol, or walked on the Capitol steps.
On Saturday, the Sedition Hunters, described by the HuffPost as an “online community that has worked to identify riot participants,” flagged footage of Mastriano on the Capitol grounds, video that has since been reviewed by other journalists. The video and images “contradict [Mastriano’s] claims that he never breached police lines and left the area before violence broke out,” HuffPost’s Josephine Harvey reported Tuesday.
The Philadelphia Inquirer published a similar analysis of the evidence, noting that it appears to show that Mastriano “stuck around longer and advanced closer to the Capitol building than he has previously acknowledged.” The footage shows Mastriano and his wife passing through police barricades being tossed aside by rioters. Other images “show the couple moving from the west side of the building—after police lines there had been breached—across the Capitol lawn toward the northeast corner with a mob that would eventually break down the barriers there, too,” the Inquirer reported Tuesday.
Pennsylvania Spotlight, an organization that investigates right-wing extremism in the state, has been examining Mastriano’s claims about the timeline of his activities on Jan. 6. It reported earlier this month that “Senator Mastriano was at the forefront of the deadly insurrection, saw the first and second attempt to breach the Capitol, and then only left not after the first few signs of violence, but after taking a few selfies with people he claims to not know.”
One of the people Mastriano posed with on Jan. 6 was former state representative Rick Saccone who posted on Facebook on Jan. 6, “We are storming the capitol,” and “Our vanguard has broken thru the barricades.” In addition to Saccone, HuffPost reported that Mastriano posed this month for a picture with Samuel Lazar, “a militant Trump supporter whose photo is included on the FBI’s Capitol riot wanted list.”
Mastriano has responded to the video evidence by smearing the investigators as “angry partisans who are so blinded by hatred for all things Donald Trump that they are distorting facts to manipulate public opinion.”
Last week, Mastriano claimed that he recently met with Trump in Trump Tower for more than an hour and said that “some months ago” Trump asked him to run for governor with a promise to campaign for him. But the next day, Trump adviser Jason Miller tweeted that Trump “has not made any endorsement or commitments yet in this race.”
Mastriano has rejected previous calls from some of his fellow legislators to resign for his participation on Jan. 6. On Wednesday, Democratic state Rep. Brian Sims, who is running for lieutenant governor, called for Mastriano’s arrest and prosecution:
ARREST MASTRIANO: This is an important thread and makes it clear that we as a Nation of laws MUST arrest and prosecute individuals like @SenMastriano, especially when they use the skills acquired from our own @USArmy to turn on the Nation and help lead an attack against us. https://t.co/l9NCT8A8Nr
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) May 26, 2021
After the November election was called for President Joe Biden, Mastriano used his platform as a state senator to promote the Trump campaign’s false claims of election fraud and to rail against his fellow Republican state legislators for not acting to overturn the results. He hosted a day-long “field hearing” in Gettysburg at which Trump campaign lawyers spooled out their conspiracy theories about the election. He appeared on religious-right radio programs and online prayer calls asking God to intervene and overturn the election results. Mastriano repeatedly called for “decisive action” and an end to “dithering,” language echoed by one of his bus riders who tweeted, “Truth be known about storming the capitol … we were sick and tired of DITHERING!!!”
A recent profile in the New Yorker portrayed Mastriano as the embodiment of aggressive Christian nationalism in the Republican Party, an analysis that is in keeping with Right Wing Watch’s reporting on the state senator.