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Pennsylvania election review moves forward amid GOP infighting

<i>Mark Makela/Getty Images</i><br/>Pennsylvania Senate President Jake Corman
Getty Images
Mark Makela/Getty Images
Pennsylvania Senate President Jake Corman

By Sara Murray, CNN

An election review in Pennsylvania is moving ahead — albeit on a murky path — amid infighting among state Republicans.

Pennsylvania Senate President Jake Corman, a Republican, said in an interview with conservative radio personality Wendy Bell that hearings would begin this week on the election review issue. It’s unclear how a review would proceed and a spokesman for Corman did not respond to requests for further details.

Corman’s announcement comes after he decided last week to tap Republican state Sen. Cris Dush — who has previously voiced support for launching an Arizona-style “audit” in Pennsylvania — to take over the audit push.

“I believe Sen. Dush will begin holding hearings this week and we will — the investigation will take us where we need to go,” Corman said in the radio interview.

In tapping Dush, Corman effectively sidelined GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who had been leading the charge for an election review in Pennsylvania.

“It is deeply disappointing that Senator Mastriano has retreated from conducting a forensic investigation of the election in Pennsylvania, and it is discouraging to realize that he was only ever interested in politics and showmanship and not actually getting things done,” Corman wrote in a barbed statement August 20. “Despite this setback, we remain committed to conducting a full investigatory audit of recent elections to improve our election system going forward.”

Mastriano’s approach to the election review — to request extensive voting materials and machines from three counties — was immediately met with resistance. The counties refused to cooperate, questioning Mastriano’s authority as well as the costs associated with providing him the requested materials.

Privately, Republicans in the state were also griping about Mastriano’s bulldozing approach, grumbling that he had forged ahead without much buy in from GOP officials in the legislature or at the county level, according to people familiar with the situation.

For Mastriano’s part, he has accused Corman of hindering his audit plans by removing Mastriano’s staff and blocking a committee vote that could have allowed Mastriano to subpoena election materials. As the fight played out in public, Mastriano called out Corman’s behavior as “unbecoming of a Senate ‘Leader.'”

Mastriano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Setting aside the GOP food fight, it’s inclear how Corman and Dush intend to proceed with their election review. President Joe Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes and even Republicans like Corman have acknowledged that any sort of post-election review won’t overturn the results there or Biden’s presidential victory.

Still, Corman said in the radio interview, “I don’t necessarily have faith in the results. I think that there were many problems in our election that we need to get to the bottom of.”

He also said he was keeping former President Donald Trump up to date on the audit plans.

“I’ve been in communication with the President on numerous occasions — the former President — even recently, and I think he’s comfortable where we’re heading, so we’re just going to continue that work,” Corman said in the radio interview.

Despite the partisan push for the audit, Corman insisted he wanted people to be involved in a review “who don’t have ties to anybody.”

“What we’re trying to do is make sure we have credibility,” Corman said in the radio interview, as he promised to conduct a “full forensic investigation.”

Dush, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has been a proponent of an Arizona-style ballot review. He and Mastriano traveled to Phoenix to tour the site of the so-called Maricopa County ballot audit, which has been panned by Republicans and Democrats for its partisan origins and shoddy procedures.

After visiting Phoenix, Dush signaled his support for a similar audit in Pennsylvania, telling a reporter he “absolutely” wanted to replicate the process.

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