(Bloomberg) -- Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania and an ally of former President Donald Trump, is asking a federal court to block the House’s Jan. 6 panel from forcing him to sit for a deposition.
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The legal complaint, filed Thursday in US District Court in Washington, D.C., asserts that the select committee investigating the 2021 Capitol riot is not -- at least in technical terms -- a bipartisan committee because it does not have a designated ranking minority member or other representation picked by House Republicans to be an adversarial voice.
Mastriano argues that the panel thus falls short of meeting the requirements of the Regulations for Use of Deposition Authority, which involves the rights and protections of witnesses, and lacks authority.
There was no immediate comment from a committee spokesman.
Mastriano was subpoenaed earlier this year because of his involvement in a plan to arrange for an “alternate” slate of presidential electors from Pennsylvania for Trump, and because he had direct conversations with Trump himself “about post-election activities,” according to a February letter from Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat.
Mastriano’s lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, said Thursday in an interview before filing the complaint that “we’re asking for a declaratory judgment on whether the committee has a right to compel depositions, under any of the rules.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi selected all nine members of the committee, including its two Republicans. That occurred after she rejected two of House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s initial choices, and he responded by pulling his other picks from participating.
Mastriano, whose Democratic opponent is Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, abruptly ended a virtual deposition before the committee last month, before it even began, in a dispute over how the questioning would be conducted. Parlatore then promised he would be filing a legal challenge.
Parlatore insists the challenge being raised now by Mastriano presents a different issue than those pressed unsuccessfully by others who contested panel subpoenas on the grounds the committee is itself not legitimate.
“It is not Plaintiff’s intent to circumvent Congress’ legislative power to address the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, Plaintiff has been forced to bring this lawsuit in order to ensure that the events of that day are not used as a pretense to manipulate the American public and pre-determine electoral outcomes by disregarding the Constitutional rights of members of the Republican Party.”
Parlatore has told the committee that Mastriano could testify voluntarily if the panel agreed to some other protections. Those include agreeing to not edit video of Mastriano’s answers for release to avoid misleading or out-of-context snippets being used to harm his campaign for governor. They also suggested the panel could allow Mastriano or some outside observers to do their own recordings. But he said the committee rejected those.
An October 2021 Senate Judiciary Committee report said Mastriano raised “a litany of false and debunked claims of widespread election fraud in Pennsylvania.”
According to the report, he took a lead role in the “Stop the Steal” movement, spending thousands of dollars from his campaign account to charter buses to Washington for a Trump rally near the White House before the siege of the Capitol. Mastriano also was on the Capitol grounds as the riot unfolded, the report said, although he has emphasized that he never entered the building.
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