Just over a week after he organized a bus trip from Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C.’s rally-turned-insurrection, one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters in Harrisburg is asking his followers to stand down.
Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, spent much of the last two months helping the president spread falsehoods about the election and seeking to reverse its outcome. But Wednesday, on the morning of Trump’s second impeachment, Mastriano took to social media to ask his supporters to stay away from any protests against President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The FBI has warned that armed groups plan to rally in state and federal capitals in the coming days.
“Please, do not participate in rallies or protests over the next 10 days,” Mastriano posted to his Twitter and Facebook accounts. “Let’s focus on praying for our nation during these troubling times.”
Mastriano’s efforts to spread doubt about the legitimacy of the election drew praise from Trump before the Capitol attack.
At a Dec. 12 Trump rally in Washington, Mastriano told a crowd that Democrats were “willing to set aside freedoms and this republic for power. Can you believe it? So what are you going to do about it?”
The crowd responded: “Fight!”
The insurrection weeks later left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead, and sparked Trump’s second impeachment — a first for any president. The backlash has left Trump-friendly politicians scrambling to distance themselves from the mob’s violence.
One of Harrisburg’s most outspoken conservatives, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, issued a statement Monday saying he did not attend the Jan. 6 rally, which Trump had promoted for weeks through his now-suspended social media accounts. Metcalfe was responding to accusations that he had joined the mob.
Mastriano said he and his wife left the rally when it became clear it was turning violent. Like Metcalfe, he condemned the rioters.
Most Republicans in the U.S. House and seven in the Senate voted to throw out Pennsylvanians’ votes hours after law enforcement put down the insurrection. Democrats blamed GOP rhetoric about the election for the violence on Nov. 6 and have demanded Mastriano’s resignation.
“Many of my friends on the other side of the aisle ... lit the fuse and watched it burn,” state Rep. Jordan Harris, D-Philadelphia, said Wednesday. “You can’t call for healing without first being held accountable for the actions that took place.”
Lies told about a stolen election and of an existential threat to the republic continue to echo among Trump’s most hardened supporters. The passions Mastriano helped stir haven’t abated, and his new calls for peace angered some of those he had sided with throughout Trump’s doomed effort to overturn the election.
“Praying and quiescence in times that America is face to face with an evil craving for obliterating the very fabric of the US is at best timidity at worse treachery,” one Twitter user said in response to Mastriano’s call for peace.