In the midst of making decisions about who to forgive and pressuring Congress to provide more relief in a negotiated coronavirus relief package, President Donald Trump is taking time-out on Wednesday to have lunch with some Pennsylvania senators.
Four senators confirmed that Senator Doug Mastriano invited colleagues from the Republican Senate Senate to have lunch in the White House with the president.
Attempts to contact Mastriano Tuesday night and Wednesday morning for comment failed. The White House Contact Point identified on the invitation, William Crozer, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, asked questions to White House press officers who did not immediately respond.
Aside from an opportunity to take the “America the Beautiful” -themed holiday decorations in the White House, senators said they had no idea what the purpose of the collection was.
“Nothing in the invitation gave any indication of the purpose,” said Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Luzerne County, who had no plans to attend due to a previous commitment to today.
Three other senators – Sens.Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington County; Mike Regan, County R-Cumberland / York; and Ryan Aument, R-Lancaster County – said they also reject the invitation.
Bartolotta said the invitation came at short notice and that she was traveling. Regan said he has planned a family reunion. Aument said he is too busy preparing for the work ahead of a special committee, he was appointed to oversee the 2020 election and return the constituent phone calls, mainly on elections and COVID-19- related issues.
“I can not take a day off and go down [to Washington, D.C.]. And it seems that I do not know that much honestly comes out of that conversation, “said Aument.
Provisional Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Center County, will not attend either, spokeswoman Jenn Kocher said. Spokesmen for House Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster County and House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff, R-Center County, said they did not receive invitations to the lunch.
Attempts to talk to other senators Tuesday night and / or Wednesday morning, including sens. John DiSanto R-Dauphin / Perry counties, and Kristen Phillips-Hill, R-York County, were not successful.
The invitation to lunch from the White House via Mastriano arrived at the senators’ email inboxes Monday night or Tuesday morning. It began:
You are cordially invited to join President Donald J. Trump in the White House for lunch on Wednesday, December 23 at 12.30 east. Find relevant registration information and other details below, including COVID-19 arrival and test protocols. Please note that this invitation is not transferable and we cannot accommodate additional guests, family members or staff. ”
It went on to outline other required procedures, including COVID-19 testing. “According to CDC instructions, we ask you to wear a mask on arrival. If you have been exposed to or experience symptoms, we ask you not to participate, ”said the invitation.
This invitation comes as Trump awaits the U.S. Supreme Court to respond to a petition filed by his campaign to reverse three Pennsylvania Supreme Court rulings on mail-in polls. The campaign calls on the court to reverse the state’s certified election results, declaring President-elect Joe Biden the winner, and to allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to elect state voters.
Biden won Pennsylvania by more than 80,000 votes, but Trump and his supporters have launched a series of failed legal challenges here and in other states. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, certified the state’s results on Nov. 24. In keeping with the state’s tradition that the winner of the popular vote in the presidential race should elect voters, the Electoral College met last week and voted unanimously to give Pennsylvania 20 election votes against Biden.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have certified their results and cast their ballots. On January 6, Congress will formally count the votes.
Earlier this month, a group of Republicans from Pennsylvania rallied to cast “conditional” voting votes for Trump in case the long-running legal challenges in the election succeed.
This is the second time in a month that lawmakers in Pennsylvania were invited to the White House to meet with Trump. Last time, it was an evening session that followed a nearly four-hour meeting of the Senate GOP Policy Committee that included Trump’s lawyers – Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis – who called witnesses making claims that discredited the integrity of Pennsylvania elections.
It was at that meeting in the White House that Mastriano learned that he tested positive for COVID-19 through screening visitors to the White House.
* This story was updated to include Senator Mike Regan’s response, which arrived moments after the announcement.
Jan Murphy can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @JanMurphy.