Doug Mastriano’s extreme views and apparent proclivity for Christian nationalism are growing harder for him to deny by the minute.
On Friday Rolling Stone published an exclusive report and shared for the first time a video of Mastriano—now the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania—from December 2020 where he kicked off a prayer meeting organized by the extreme right-wing, pro-Trump New Apostolic Restoration movement.
His prayer before the fundamentalist group was laden with the language of warfare and darkness and steeped in references to the battle between good and evil forces. But at the center of his remarks was the request that God “embolden” the leaders of the Republican Party, namely Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, to ignore the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania and help Donald Trump seize power.
The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol would unfold a week later.
The video has not been published before, though Mastriano’s participation at the meeting was reported for the first time a year ago by a nonprofit organization with an eye on right-wing extremism known as Right Wing Watch. Rolling Stone only obtained the video through the help of an independent researcher and longtime analyst of the New Apostolic Restoration movement, Bruce Wilson.
This prayer meeting was one of more than a dozen “Global Prayer for Election Integrity” sessions organized by an evangelical leader of the New Apostolic Restoration movement, Jim Garlow.
Garlow has had the support of Republican lawmakers and politicians—see Newt Gingrich—for years. His belief that the Bible, and more specifically Christianity, are the principles that should govern politics above all else make up core tenets in his ministry. God, according to Garlow, “originally established government.”
At its core, this is also what defines Christian nationalism, or the unequivocally anti-democratic belief that it is God’s most fervent intent that the United States population be 100% Christian, no exceptions.
When Trump was in office, Garlow was a regular champion for Trump’s agenda. He prayed over the former president in the White House in 2017 along with two dozen other prominent evangelical figures. And when the 2020 election finally came around, the group lined up to vocally and unapologetically support Trump’s claims of rampant election fraud and rigged outcomes.
Mastriano was one of many Republican voices who decried Trump’s defeat to now President Joe Biden and he promoted the lie that fraud had undercut the 45th president’s so-called “victory.” On the morning of Jan. 6, Mastriano was in Washington, D.C., just outside the Capitol building, snapping pictures with pro-Trump former Pennsylvania House Rep. Rick Saccone and walking with his wife on the Capitol’s northwest lawn.
Mastriano appeared to be enjoying the fruits of his labor. His office had, after all, paid to have people bussed to the Capitol on Jan. 6 and as The New Yorker pointed out in an extensive profile of him and his history of Christian nationalist support, he told his supporters days before the Capitol attack: “I’m really praying that God will pour His Spirit upon Washington, D.C., like we’ve never seen before.”
Though he initially denied being there at all, Mastriano later aggressively defended his presence on Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, saying he obeyed police lines as they “shifted” throughout the day. He’s relegated scrutiny of his actions as an “obsession” by “foot soldiers of the ruling elite.”
In a radio interview with NEWSTALK 1037FM uncovered last year by the watchdog group, Pennsylvania Spotlight, Mastriano said he saw at least two people try to breach the Capitol.
At least one person who took Mastriano’s charter bus to Washington on Jan. 6 was Sandra Weyer of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. According to court records, Weyer was arrested on a single felony charge of obstructing Congress and faced four misdemeanor charges including disorderly conduct for encouraging the assault of a photojournalist with The New York Times.
In the prayer video that surfaced Friday, Mastriano is seen clutching letters that he says Trump sent to him that morning “outlining the fraud in Pennsylvania.”
“I pray that … we’ll seize the power that we had given to us by the Constitution, and as well by You, providentially. I pray for the leaders also in the federal government, God, on the sixth of January that they will rise up with boldness,” he said.
He has flatly denied being involved with Garlow or the New Apostolic Reformation movement.
A key excerpt from the Rolling Stone report highlights how flagrantly unbelievable that statement is, however. Researcher Bruce Wilson, who first secured the tape of Mastriano, weighed in:
“Wilson finds Mastriano’s denials risible. “If Mastriano wasn’t a true [New Apostolic Reformation] believer, why was he there praying before them, and taking on the heroic mantle of Gideon?” he asks. “He didn’t just wander in off the street, he was invited.”
Noting the pine-tree flag adopted by Christian Nationalists in the background,
Wilson adds that Mastriano’s prayer was pitched perfectly to a NAR audience: “He speaks their vernacular so well, it’s hard to imagine he’s not all in.”
Mastriano did not immediately return a request for comment to Daily Kos on Friday.
The Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania has a long history of aligning himself with far-right policy and values.
As underlined by The American Independent in a comprehensive piece published Thursday, his campaign has hired former Oath Keepers to serve as security. Local online news outlet LancasterOnline turned up that connection in August. Mastriano has posed in a faculty photo at the Army War College donning a Confederate uniform. He’s been caught on tape praising a man wearing a Confederate flag as a cape as he stood in front of a statute of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Mastriano has also vowed to ban abortions after six weeks if elected governor of Pennsylvania. He’s vowed to make entire state of Pennsylvania re-register its voters. This is something most legal experts overwhelmingly say violates federal law and most likely runs afoul of state law.
On Friday, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a report unpacking the “paranoia” that has seemingly overwhelmed Mastriano’s campaign. Dissension of any kind appears not to be tolerated. A “loyalist” to Mastriano who mentioned the words “January 6” during a recent campaign event was threatened to be removed before those in Mastriano’s camp realized she wasn’t there to question or criticize Mastriano about the insurrection. In fact, the Inquirer reported, she was just remarking about how she was in Washington on Jan. 6, too.
As of Friday, there are just 60 days left until the Pennsylvania midterm elections and the first date to vote early in person there is Sept. 19.
As the midterms approach, McClatchy highlighted in a report Friday that Mastriano has not aired any television commercials since May 16 and has not scheduled any upcoming ads for TV in the final weeks before the primary. Alternatively, Mastriano’s Democratic opponent in the gubernatorial race, Josh Shapiro, has arranged to spend almost $30 million in on-air advertisements for his campaign.
Jim Schultz, the former counsel to onetime Republican governor for Pennsylvania Tom Corbett, told McClatchy he didn’t believe Mastriano had raised enough money to run ads in the expensive southeast Pennsylvania markets.
“I think the lack of support for Mastriano is unprecedented and warranted,” Schultz said.
Meanwhile, the Jan. 6 committee remains at odds with Mastriano for now. Though he initially said he would cooperate with the probe, he’s since turned his back on investigators and sued them to avoid complying with a February subpoena.
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