Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf pointed to a “deliberate disinformation campaign” by Pennsylvania’s state and federal lawmakers as a partial cause for Wednesday’s violence at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump that temporarily disrupted the certification of the nation’s electoral college votes and resulted in at least one death.
“They lied about the results of the election. They lied about voter fraud. They lied about my administration and other governors. They lied about the administration of the election here in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Wolf said in a statement Wednesday night.
Eight of Pennsylvania’s congressional members, including U.S. Reps. Dan Meuser, Scott Perry, Lloyd Smucker, Fred Keller, Guy Reschenthaler, Glenn “GT” Thompson, Mike Kelly and John Joyce all signed onto a statement declaring they “cannot agree to support electors chosen.”
They were among the more than 100 members of the U.S. House and 14 senators who planned to challenge the vote based on unproven allegations and conspiracy theories over alleged voter fraud and malfeasance that state and federal courts across the country have roundly rejected.
Earlier in the day, Wolf and Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar led a rebuke of that effort, both pointing to the number of requirements and protections Pennsylvania has in place to keep voters fair and election workers accountable.
Wolf took a markedly more aggressive tack in addressing GOP lawmakers during a press briefing on the subject.
“They are purposely spreading disinformation,” Wolf said. “I cannot let it go unchallenged.”
Former western Pennsylvania state representative and congressional candidate Rick Saccone was present at the U.S. Capitol as extremists began to break into the building. In a Facebook Live video that was removed during the fray, Saccone said: “We’re trying to run out all of the evil people … that have betrayed our president.”
Saccone later appeared to walk back those comments in a separate post.
In another Facebook post, Saccone also identified state Sen. Doug Mastriano as having been present. The Adams County lawmaker confirmed he and his wife were among the crowd outside the Capitol building to protest the electoral vote certification, saying that “should not surprise anyone” familiar with his views on the election. At the end of November, Mastriano organized an event in Gettysburg focused on unfounded claims of fraud.
“My position on lawlessness is equally as clear,” he said in an emailed statement. “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.”
In the months leading up to the attack on the Capitol building, state lawmakers including Rep. Seth Grove of York County aired evidence-free claims about Dominion voting machines, claims Dominion Voting Systems itself extensively refuted.
A Senate Majority Policy meeting that cost taxpayers around $3,000 according to LNP allowed members of President Trump’s campaign to sound off on baseless claims of voter fraud and election malfeasance.
Wolf said all of those actions contributed to the environment that erupted before the world on Wednesday.
“We have had a peaceful transfer of power every election cycle in our nation’s history but because of the actions of Republicans, we can no longer say that. I am disgusted but I will keep fighting to make our democracy stronger,” Wolf said.
Spokeswoman Lyndsay Kensigner said the commonwealth is “prepared” to dispatch the Pennsylvania National Guard to aid in cleanup and containment efforts. Spokespeople for the Republican caucuses in both the state House and Senate say their members will be working from home tomorrow “out of an abundance of caution.”
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is among the faction of GOP lawmakers that rejected their party’s bid to challenge the electoral vote.
“A fundamental, defining feature of a democratic republic is the right of the people to elect their own leaders. It is now our responsibility to ensure that that right is respected in this election and preserved for future elections,” Toomey said during debate on an electoral vote challenge before extremists stormed the Capitol.
The results of the 2020 election have been certified by all states, which allows Congress to meet to confirm those results. They have also been upheld by courts despite multiple challenges and calls for review. Counties, states controlled by both parties and even the U.S. Justice Department have repeatedly praised the effort.