The hearing smacked of blatant hypocrisy.
The Pennsylvania Senate Majority Policy Committee’s field trip to Gettysburg on Wednesday featured President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and testimony from Republican elections workers who alleged improprieties and outright fraud in the Nov. 3 election.
Let me be clear at the outset: This column is not about Trump-bashing, debunking conspiracy theories, or attacking the notion of a “stolen” election.
It’s about inconsistency by Republican Senate and House members who went out of their way to attend the hearing in person or via Zoom.
One of the chief Trumpers in Pennsylvania is Sen. Doug Mastriano, a freshman dynamo and retired Army colonel who wears his conservatism on his sleeve and makes no secret he is running for governor in 2022. Mastriano, R-Chambersburg, asked that the committee hearing be held in his district and invited Giuliani, whose appearance was touted in a Trump campaign press release breathlessly headlined “PENNSYLVANIA, ARIZONA, MICHIGAN LEGISLATURES TO HOLD PUBLIC HEARINGS ON 2020 ELECTION.”
“The republic is at stake,” said Mastriano, flanked by Republican legislators who were just re-elected in the same election they claim was rigged for President-elect Joe Biden.
Earlier Wednesday, it looked like Trump himself was going to attend, but he canceled after word came that Giuliani had once again been exposed to someone with COVID-19. As a backup, the president called in, his voice amplified to the hearing via a cellphone held up to a microphone by another one of his attorneys, Jenna Ellis.
“We won easily,” Trump claimed, without foundation, to the panel. “We won by a lot.”
And as his lawyers had already told the legislators, Trump issued a call to action: “They cheated. It was a fraudulent election. We have to turn this election over.”
The testimony presented by numerous witnesses painted a picture of corruption without hard evidence.
In the end, Republican lawmakers were clearly trying to have it both ways. Most don’t want to offend independent voters, moderate Republicans or the political establishment by throwing out election results. But they want to curry favor with hardcore Trump supporters by echoing theories of a vast conspiracy that stole the election.
Last weekend, Trump invited Michigan lawmakers to the White House to encourage them to appoint Trump electors even though Biden carried the state. Those lawmakers made the trip, but declined to do as he asked.
CNN reported that Trump was considering inviting Pennsylvania Republican legislative leaders for face-to-face meetings. Mastriano and his colleagues in Gettysburg sounded ready to take up the president’s charge, but their leaders in the General Assembly had already shut down the notion of a White House meeting and overturning the election.
Instead of Wednesday’s 3 1/2-hour staged hearing, why didn’t Mastriano and his colleagues, convinced of fraud, engage in civil disobedience, or wage a public relations campaign to rally the media and public to their cause?
If the system was wracked with fraud, wouldn’t they be compelled to do more than hold a hearing in a hotel ballroom?
The problem, though, is that by the time the hearing started, Pennsylvania already had certified the election results. Pennsylvania’s electors — 20 Democratic officials and key supporters — will cast their votes for Biden when they gather at the state Capitol on Dec. 14.
The Biden transition is officially underway, and every day closer to Jan. 20, when the transfer of power occurs, makes it harder, if not impossible, to overturn the results here and in two or three other battleground states.
Trump supporters distraught about the election have very few options left, and time is running out.
Trump invited some GOP lawmakers from the hearing to the West Wing, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, and top leaders who have declined to interfere with the election did not go the meeting. Mastriano was the only known attendee. The purpose wasn’t clear.
A Hail Mary pass, theoretically, is still possible. But there’s about a second left and it would need to be a 99-yarder. The Republicans at the Wednesday hearing aren’t even on the field. Except for Mastriano perhaps, they are on the sidelines.
Brad Bumsted is the bureau chief of The Caucus, an LNP Media Group watchdog publication. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.