After months of wind-up and a failed effort to throw out the votes of his own fellow citizens, the Trumpy Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) announced Wednesday that he was initiating an “forensic investigation” of Pennsylvania’s 2020 election and this year’s primaries.
Or rather, he’s initiating an audit of parts of the commonwealth: In interviews and an op-ed Wednesday, Mastriano said that he’d sent requests for ballots, machines and other materials to three counties: Philadelphia, Tioga and York. The latter two counties were Trump strongholds, and Philadelphia, the state’s largest county, voted heavily for Biden.
“That’s just for starters,” Mastriano told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in an interview Wednesday. “We’re willing to do another round of these.”
Mastriano gave the counties until July 31 to respond with a plan to provide the requested materials, threatening to subpoena whatever wasn’t handed over.
The Pennsylvania Capital-Star printed Mastriano’s letter to York County, including a 45-point request list asking for everything from tabulation equipment to “access or control of ALL routers, tabulators or combinations thereof (some routers are inside the tabulator case) in order to gain access to all the system logs.”
Notably, Mastriano also requested “paper samples from all ballot paper utilized during the 2020 election cycle”– perhaps a nod at the analysis performed in Arizona to determine whether ballots were imported from abroad, as would purportedly be revealed if the paper was made of bamboo.
Mastriano — who was present at the Jan. 6 riot and even chartered buses to attend the Trump rally that day — also told Bannon he’d want to “forensically analyze, with photographic material, whether the ballots were copied or filled in by a human.” That sounded suspiciously like a reference to the super-secret technology of inventor, failed treasure hunter and audit celebrity Jovan Pulitzer, who’s claimed that his technology can discern, from the nature of a filled-in ballot oval, whether a given ballot is legitimate.
Though he cited the importance of restoring voters’ “confidence” and “trust” in the election system, Mastriano himself has spent months pushing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen: He was responsible for setting up a “hearing” in November in which Giuliani and Trump (over the phone) lied about widespread fraud and urged the legislature to ignore the will of Pennsylvania voters.
Around the same time, Mastriano argued the Pennsylvania legislature to throw out the votes of Pennsylvania citizens and instead send a slate of Trump electors to the Electoral College. Two months ago, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani headlined a fundraiser for Mastriano.
The Pennsylvania audit also represents a continuation of the “audit” in Arizona, the first such politicized, GOP legislature-approved examination of the 2020 election. In that case, a firm with no prior elections experience, led by a Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist, was given access to ballots and voting machines as part of an ongoing effort that election experts have panned as fundamentally flawed.
Mastriano was an early part of the wave of out-of-state legislators to tour the Arizona audit, which Trump boosters portrayed as the “first domino” in a series of audits they believe will reveal Trump as the true winner of the 2020 election. After his tour early last month, Mastriano told Bannon in an interview that the Arizona set-up was “really the model, in the future, for any elections that might be in dispute.”
Mastriano’s ties to the Arizona audit go deeper than a visit: A former subcontractor for the Arizona review, Wake TSI, got some of its only elections experience prior to its Arizona contract in Pennsylvania, where it was hired to examine voting machines and ballots in Fulton County.
A handwritten note on a document describing the Fulton County job, signed by Wake TSI co-founder Gene Kern, described Mastriano’s involvement: “Senator Mastriano set this review of Fulton Counties [sic] voter system and mail-in ballots. Wake TSI is contracted to Defending the Republic a 501(c)4.” Defending the Republic was the group the conspiracy-minded pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell has advertised as a legal fund supporting her work on various 2020 election lawsuits.
Mastriano has reportedly considered following in the Arizona audit’s footsteps in another respect: Private funding.
The Associated Press reported earlier this month that Mastriano had solicited legal advice about whether Senate Republicans could use private money to finance consultants and lawyers. The AP quoted the response, from lawyer Bruce Marks, who said that for an “oversight investigation” of the 2020 election, it was likely legal to accept private dollars.
“While we cannot predict how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court would decide the issue, in our opinion, to a reasonable degree of legal certainty, Pennsylvania law does not prohibit the Caucus or Committee from accepting or benefiting from such financial support,” Marks wrote, per the AP.
In Arizona, the Senate provided just $150,000 for the “audit” allowing auditors to fill the void with potentially millions of dollars from un-traced sources, such as organizations established by ex-Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne, One America News correspondent Christina Bobb, and the pro-Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Lin Wood.