Pennsylvania senator under fire after attending Capitol Hill protest

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, attends a hearing Nov. 25, 2020, of the Pennsylvania State Senate Majority Policy Committee in Gettysburg, Pa.

Republican Sen. Doug Mastriano now faces calls for his resignation after he attended the Capitol Hill protests that turned fatal Wednesday afternoon.

Mastriano – who represents the 33rd district in parts of Adams, Franklin, Cumberland and York counties – immediately condemned the violence that resulted in the deaths of four protesters in Washington D.C., including an Air Force veteran who was shot and killed inside the Capitol building.

But that didn’t stop his Democratic colleagues from insisting Mastriano resign upon learning he attended the rallies after months of challenging the state’s election results. Mastriano played a key role in organizing the Senate Majority Policy Committee meeting where Trump ally Rudy Giuliani laid out the campaign’s claims of widespread voter fraud and abuse in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

“My wife and I went to Washington, DC, today to support President Trump which should not surprise anyone familiar with my views on this election and my concerns about its integrity,” Mastriano said in a news release Wednesday night. “My position on lawlessness is equally as clear. 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.”

Rep. Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, called Mastriano a “criminal” and said he wasn’t surprised by the “sedition spewing from my elected ‘colleagues.’” He joined Sen. Tim Kearney, D-Springfield, in demanding the senator resign.

“Pennsylvania’s congressmen who lied about our election laws last night in an attempt to overthrow 7 million legal ballots and overturn out elections were not the only elected Republicans from the Commonwealth who exposed themselves as criminal conspirators yesterday,” he said.

“Doug Mastriano is a sitting senator who actively organized a violent insurrection in an attempt to prevent a peaceful transfer of power,” Kearney said. “Sen. Corman and GOP leadership should call for his immediate resignation. If not, he should be removed from all committee or leadership positions.”

Chaos descended on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as a joint session of Congress began voting on certifying the electoral college results and cementing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. The peaceful protests then turned violent after pro-Trump demonstrators stormed the building – breaking windows, clashing with police and sending lawmakers fleeing for safety.

Sims said Mastriano’s presence at the protest caps off weeks of “grossly and predictably dangerous” behavior.

“This is the same Senator that tested positive for Covid upon arriving at the White House several weeks ago to pursue his attempts to overthrow Pennsylvania’s election results,” he said. “His behavior is deliberate, radical and criminal and he should resign or be expelled from the General Assembly.

Mastriano, a military veteran and retired colonel, said there’s “no justification for this sort of behavior.”

“Today was a sad day for our country,” he said. “It hit me especially hard because I’ve spent most of my adult life defending our nation’s freedoms and ensuring that our constitutional rights are protected. Those who violated those laws must be prosecuted.”

Senate Republican leadership have not yet addressed the calls for Mastriano’s resignation, but both President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Bellefonte, and Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Greensburg, condemned the violence on social media Wednesday evening.

“It cannot be said often enough – we are a nation of laws,” Corman said. “This is not our America. Violence is not the American way. When our rules and laws are not followed, chaos takes over. What is going on in DC should never happen.”

“Sheer size of the crowd in DC is emblematic of how divided we are. We can disagree [without] violence,” Ward said. “Violence wasn’t OK when groups were destroying property last summer: it’s not OK now. We are a country of laws and without laws, we are doomed. I pray this stops and no one gets hurt.”