GOP Pennsylvania Governor Candidate Doug Mastriano Sues Jan. 6 Panel

GOP Pennsylvania Governor Candidate Doug Mastriano Sues Jan. 6 Panel
Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano gives a victory speech at his election-night party at The Orchards in Chambersburg, Pa., on May 17, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Mimi Nguyen Ly

Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, filed a lawsuit against the Jan. 6 committee on Thursday, seeking to block the panel from compelling him to sit for a deposition.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington. Attorneys for Mastriano, who is currently a senator in the Keystone State, argued that the Jan. 6 panel does not have the authority to conduct compelled depositions because it is unable to comply with the House Regulations for the Use of Deposition Authority (Deposition Regulations).

"Central to this issue is the fact that [the Jan. 6 committee] lacks a Ranking Minority Member or any members designated by the minority party," the filing reads.

The lawsuit acknowledged that courts have previously ruled that, despite this deficiency, the Jan. 6 committee could still issue subpoenas. But it argued that Mastriano's case is different because "no Court" has ever been asked to rule on whether the Jan. 6 committee has the authority to conduct depositions, by examining whether it is in compliance with the Deposition Regulations, which require the ranking minority member to take certain actions.

Defendants in the lawsuit are identified as the Jan. 6 committee itself, as well as each of its 13 members, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

No 'Ranking Minority Member'

According to the lawsuit, the Jan. 6 committee "has no members designated by the Republican Conference" because Pelosi had, in appointing the 13 members to the panel in July 2021, rejected the proposed committee members nominated by House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Attorneys added: "Because no members of the minority conference were included in the panel, nobody was designated as Ranking Minority Member."

The resolution that created the Jan. 6 committee, H.R. 503, which was passed in June 2021, did not explicitly grant Pelosi the authority to designate the Ranking Minority Member, Mastriano's attorneys stated in the complaint. Instead, Pelosi used her authority under Democratic Caucus Rules to designate Republican Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to serve as the vice chair of the panel. "However, this selection does not alleviate the structural deficit of the Committee where 'Vice Chair' is not equivalent to 'Ranking Minority Member.'"

A spokesperson from the committee did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times's request for comment.

 Former President Donald Trump is displayed on a screen during the fourth hearing on the Jan. 6 investigation in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington on June 21, 2022. (Al Drago/Pool via Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump is displayed on a screen during the fourth hearing on the Jan. 6 investigation in the Cannon House Office Building in Washington on June 21, 2022. (Al Drago/Pool via Getty Images)

Mastriano had attended the Jan. 6, 2021, rally in Washington with numerous other people demanding election integrity. He did not enter the Capitol building and has not been charged in relation to the events that day.

Earlier this year, former President Donald Trump had endorsed Mastriano in the primary race for governor.

Jan. 6 Panel Refused to Let Mastriano Obtain Own Recording of Interview

The Jan. 6 committee in February this year issued a subpoena to Mastriano asking him to provide deposition testimony regarding the events leading up to and on Jan. 6, 2021. In response to the subpoena, Mastriano provided the requested documents for their investigation, but he refused to appear for a compelled deposition, citing the deficient makeup of the committee. As such, the committee agreed that he could appear for a voluntary interview.

But after Mastriano asked the committee for some form of protection against its potential release of selective edited and potentially misleading clips of the interview, the committee withdrew their agreement to a voluntary interview and demanded a compelled deposition for Aug. 9.

Mastriano and his attorney, Timothy Parlatore, on Aug. 9 met up with two members linked to the Jan. 6 committee: one staffer, senior investigative counsel Dan George, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.).

Leading up to the meeting, Parlatore informed the Jan. 6 committee via a letter dated Aug. 5 that Mastriano would be willing to talk under certain conditions, including the committee getting a ranking minority member designation from the House Republican Steering Committee, and if he could record the hearing as a safeguard against the release of potentially misleading clips of the meeting that might manipulate the true conversation.

The requests would ensure that Mastriano's meeting with the Jan. 6 committee "would not run the risk of improperly influencing the Pennsylvania state election," given Mastriano's current position as the Republican gubernatorial candidate for the state, the lawsuit filed on Thursday noted.

But the Jan. 6 committee refused to allow a recording.

On Aug. 8, the day prior to the meeting, Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), issued a letter refusing to negotiate for a voluntary interview. Mastriano's attorneys said that Thompson had falsely claimed that "courts have repeatedly rejected these arguments." They argued that the cases he cited "deal only with the authority to issue subpoenas, not conduct depositions."

The Jan. 6 committee regarded the roughly 15-minute exchange on Aug. 9 with Mastriano, which was conducted via a video call, as a "deposition," but Mastriano and Parlatore maintained that it was a "voluntary interview." In the lawsuit, Mastriano's attorneys asserted that the Jan. 6 panel "has absolutely no authority to conduct compelled depositions."

Concerns Over Partisanship

In the complaint on Thursday, Mastriano's attorneys expressed concerns over what they called its "dissemination of disinformation to pursue partisan goals, rather than legitimate legislative function." They noted that in recent weeks, the Jan. 6 panel had released edited interview clips of another witness "without appropriate or requisite context, portraying a highly partisan, wholly inaccurate, and inherently biased narrative."

"Plaintiff's concerns would not exist if the Committee were properly constituted and able to follow the Deposition Regulations," the lawsuit reads, noting that the rules contained a prophylactic measure that served "to prevent one party from using deposition excerpts to spread disinformation." The measure stipulates that both the committee chair and ranking minority member must consult over any release of deposition testimony and related materials, and if either party objects, there would be further actions required to resolve the issue.

"This provision would prevent such edited and misleading clips from being distributed, as the ranking minority member would not consent to certain contextless clips being distributed absent additional materials that would provide the appropriate context," attorneys for Mastriano argued. "Absent such representation, we have a situation where one party is free to put out any edited clips they want in an effort to improperly influence the midterm elections."

Beth Brelje contributed to this report.
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