By Sara Murray, CNN
A Republican state senator who’s leading the Pennsylvania audit push offered little clarity on when he might seek subpoenas for election materials as he kicked off his investigation into the 2020 election in a Thursday hearing.
“We will follow the advice of counsel and long-standing Senate precedent in determining whether and when subpoenas are necessary,” said state Sen. Cris Dush, the chair of the Intergovernmental Operations Committee.
It’s still unclear what an election postmortem will look like in the Keystone State. But it’s yet another sign Republicans intend to keep alive former President Donald Trump’s false narrative that the 2020 election results can’t be trusted, even though there is still no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud or problems of such a scale that they would have impacted the results.
“Here we sit in September 2021, still giving oxygen to the big lie,” state Sen. Anthony H. Williams, the top Democrat on the Intergovernmental Operations Committee, said Thursday. “The goal is simply to stoke distrust and division. But not just in our political families but across this country.”
In Pennsylvania, the efforts to launch a post-election audit have been slowed by GOP infighting, as the audit’s original champion — GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano — was sidelined by Republican Senate leadership. Dush was tapped to take over the effort.
On Thursday, Dush said he wanted to lay some groundwork before moving ahead with subpoenas, which would have to be authorized by a vote in the GOP-dominated committee.
“The power to issue a subpoena isn’t unlimited, and we must ensure sound legal footing before we proceed down that path. In addition, we must be ready, willing and able to actually review and utilize meaningfully any information that we receive in response to our subpoenas,” Dush said.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, a Republican, has said he expects subpoenas will eventually be issued to the Pennsylvania Department of State, and they may subpoena election materials from an unspecified number of counties as well.
As Dush forged ahead Thursday, he insisted that his investigation was not about Trump or relitigating the results of the 2020 election.
“Today’s hearing and the investigation we are conducting in this committee are not about President Trump as some reports in the news have implied,” Dush said. “This investigation is not about overturning the results of any election, as some would suggest. That horse is out of the barn, as far as this investigation is concerned.”
Yet last month Dush told PennLive that he had been in touch with Trump regarding his audit plans.
“He congratulated me and said that he wanted to have confidence in me,” Dush said of his conversation with the former President. “He’s going to be watching me.”
President Joe Biden won Pennsylvania in last November’s election by more than 80,000 votes. And Trump’s flurry of legal challenges attempting to upend those results failed.
Still, Dush has been an open skeptic of the 2020 election results, traveling to visit Arizona’s widely criticized “audit” and saying he would like to bring a similar style of audit to Pennsylvania.
“Nobody in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can tell you who the winner was in any of these races from November 2020,” Dush told PennLive.
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