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Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
August 10, 2022
Congressional questioning, fraud charges, contested results, Oz house, buffer zones, and testing a Lyme disease vaccine. It's Wednesday.
CUT SHORT

Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano cut his interview with congressional Jan. 6 investigators short on Tuesday and pledged to challenge the committee in court, multiple outlets report.

Mastriano — who boosted efforts to overturn the 2020 election, was outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, and backed efforts to submit alternate, pro-Trump electors for Pennsylvania — didn't answer any questions amid an impasse over ground rules, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

The virtual appearance lasted 15 minutes in all. Mastriano and his attorney, Tim Parlatore, had asked to independently record the deposition, a condition the investigators were unlikely to agree to. They also challenged the legality of the subpoena that was issued for his testimony in February.

"We're happy to provide the information if they can either do it fairly and legally or if we can reach a resolution on how to do a voluntary interview which minimizes the risk of election interference," Parlatore said.

Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, was also due for a virtual, closed-door deposition before the investigators on Tuesday. 

THE CONTEXT: Politico reported in June that Mastriano had agreed to the interview and turned over requested documents. But because of a sizable carve-out exempting materials related to his official actions as state senator, the documents submitted were mostly public social media posts.

Mastriano's involvement in efforts to overturn the 2020 election is well-documented. According to timelines from The Inquirer and WHYY, he joined strategy sessions at the White House, amplified conspiracy theories in Gettysburg, introduced a bill that would reject Pennsylvania's election results, and used campaign funds to send supporters to D.C. on Jan. 6. 

Democrats have seized on those efforts in this year's high-stakes governor's race, with Mastriano — who handily won May's primary in a crowded GOP field — making the elimination of mail voting and other election policy changes a central plank of his platform.

Mastriano has also chosen the person who would serve as the state's chief elections officer if he's elected, but he hasn't revealed their name.

NOTABLE / QUOTABLE

"My phone contains info about my legislative and political activities, and personal/private discussions with my wife, family, constituents, and friends. None of this is the government's business."

—U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R., Pa.), a top Trump ally, after he says FBI agents seized his cellphone on Tuesday; the development came less than 24 hours after federal agents raided former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate
 
📅 UPCOMING EVENTS

» TALK OF THE TOWN: On Friday, Aug. 12 at 6 p.m. ET, meet our new State College regional bureau team, get an inside look at what we're investigating, and tell us how we can better connect with you. RSVP here. Tell us what you want to know about the bureau at events@spotlightpa.org

📷 POST IT
Up above it all with Kimberly D. on the Great Allegheny Passage trail outside the Big Savage Tunnel in Somerset County. Send us your Pennsylvania photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
DAILY RUNDOWN
UNDER INDICTMENT: Federal authorities have indicted the owners and managers of two western Pennsylvania nursing homes — including Beaver County's Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, site of one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks of the early pandemic — for health care fraud, per TribLIVE. The facilities are accused of keeping staffing levels below standards and falsifying records to cover it up. U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung said the alleged offenses predate the pandemic. 

'HUMAN ERROR': State officials are blaming "human error" and a spreadsheet oversight for the certification of primary results in Butler County, results the state deems inaccurate. Butler is one of four counties that refused to count undated mail ballots. But while the state sued three other counties for that very reason, Butler was inadvertently excluded and its results were made official, the Cranberry Eagle reports.

POLICY WATCH: Municipal governments in Pennsylvania — from Pittsburgh to small towns like Radnor — are looking to limit the enforcement of new abortion access limits in a post-Roe world. Bolts magazine says it's experimental policymaking meant to "shield residents from the impacts of abortion criminalization," but one expert says "intense" inter-jurisdictional conflicts abound.

LOWER BURDEN: Mehmet Oz bought a $3.1 million home in Montgomery County last year, and it came with a $50,000 annual tax break under a controversial state program designed to encourage the preservation of farm or forestland, The Inquirer reports (paywalled). Critics say the program was intended to help struggling farmers and timber workers but overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy instead.

LAWYER CHARGED: A Lackawanna County prosecutor-turned-defense attorney has been charged with promoting prostitution. The state attorney general's office says Corey Kolcharno, 47, targeted vulnerable clients for sex, exploiting four women in exchange for legal work he did for them or their family members, the AP reports. Kolcharno is expected to plead guilty and intends to give up his law license.
IN OTHER NEWS

PARTY OFF: Philly police denied more than 200 block parties this year for "criminal activity" amid a decade-long block party decline. But they won't say how they decide which permits to cancel, Billy Penn reports. 

LYME VACCINE: Pennsylvanians are among the volunteers signed up to test the first potential vaccine against Lyme disease in 20 years, CBS News reports. Robert Terwilliger of Blair County was the first in line.

OPEN CALL: Director Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men; O Brother, Where Art Thou?) wants you for his next movie. An open audition is coming to Pittsburgh, via Beaver County Times. No acting experience necessary.

PEEP THIS: The New York Times endorses your use of Bethlehem-made marshmallow Peeps in your campfire s'mores.

FALL GUIDE: Twenty "hidden waterfalls" located across Pennsylvania aren't hidden any more thanks to the state's tourism office.

THE SCRAMBLER
Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.
 
U I I T L O R C C N A

*This week's theme: Newspapers
 
Yesterday's answer: Masthead

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Connie K., Theresa T., Susan N.-Z., Barbara F., Irene R., Jodi R., Susan D., Elaine C., Kimberly D., Gina Z., John W., Hugh M., Patricia M., Karen W., Don H., Marty M., Becky C., Cindy M., Becca S., Vicki U., Ana G., George S., Stanley J., Jim A., Daniel M., David W., James B., Craig W., Ed M., Doris T., Starr B., Larry B., Dianne K., Susan R., Kevin M., Brian B., Joel S., Nancy S., Tish M., Michael B., Kathy B., Kathy S., Rosa E., David S., Ted W., Stephen G., Jude M., John P., Sandy B., Wendy A., Jane R., Bill S., Lex M., Jim M., Ted B., Chuck M., and Lynne E.
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