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Trump’s pick for Pa. governor says he sees ‘parallels’ to Hitler’s power grab in Capitol riot

Doug Mastriano — who attended the Jan. 6 rally — was asked whether the riot was similar to the Reichstag fire, which Hitler used as a pretext to seize more power in 1933.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks at a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg, Pa., on May 17, 2022.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano at a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg, Pa., on May 17.Carolyn Kaster / AP

WASHINGTON — The Donald Trump-endorsed nominee for governor in Pennsylvania compared the Jan. 6 attack to historical events staged by the Nazis, saying that he saw "parallels" between the criticism of the Jan. 6 attack and the 1933 Reichstag fire, which Hitler used to seize more power.

Doug Mastriano was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Mastriano, a Pennsylvania state senator, has been subpoenaed by the House Jan. 6 committee. He organized buses to D.C. that day, according to receipts his campaign's lawyer previously acknowledged turning over to the Jan. 6 committeeVideo shows he was just feet away as rioters ripped down police barricades, but he has said he followed police lines “as they existed” and says he left the Capitol when it was “apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest.”

His primary election victory last month has prompted a renewed look at his role on Jan. 6, including previously unpublished photos that show him in the back of a crowd that breached a police barricade.

He is also receiving increased attention about his comments about Jan. 6.

Last week, Mastriano live-streamed on Facebook as he was interviewed Friday for the podcast "The World According to Ben Stein."

Stein — a former Richard Nixon speechwriter who hosted the 1990s gameshow "Win Ben Stein's Money" and played an economics teacher in the 1986 movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" — called the deadly Jan. 6 attack "a ridiculously trivial thing" on the podcast.

Stein said the country is getting "more and more into a dictatorship," and compared Jan. 6 to the 1933 fire on the Reichstag, the legislative branch in Berlin, that Hitler blamed on communists. The Nazis then used the fire as a pretext to suspend civil liberties and assume more power.

"The Nazis immediately seized upon it [the Reichstag fire] to impose emergency measures," Stein said. "I think something like this is happening with the Jan. 6 nonevent."

Stein called the riot a "ridiculously trivial thing."

“It was not an insurrection," he added. "It was not an attempt to take over the government. It was a demonstration by a group that felt frustration by the statistical impossibility of the vote having gone the way the Democrats said it did.”

Mastriano responded to Stein's comparison, saying he concurred with the comparison between Jan. 6 and the Reichstag fire.

“I agree with the political, with the historic analogy laid out there, so using something that was very suspicious in Berlin to advance their agenda, you know, the national socialists there," Mastriano said. "I do see parallels.”

Mastriano, who previously said that those who broke the law on Jan. 6 "must be prosecuted," said on Stein's podcast that law enforcement had taken "extreme, heavy-handed measures" in response to the attack.

"It's just really heartbreaking watching how quickly our country's falling down, and that we have people being publicly arrested for show to send a message," Mastriano said. "I think what we're seeing in America now makes McCarthy in the '50s look like an amateur."

A member of the online sleuths Sedition Hunters — individuals who have spent the past 17 months investigating the Jan. 6 attack and identifying hundreds of rioters to law enforcement — say they have found new photos of Mastriano on the Capitol grounds moments before the rioters breached a police barricade line on the eastern side of the U.S. Capitol. Minutes later, rioters smashed the window of a door leading into the Capitol rotunda, according to timelines the online sleuths have constructed using the videos, photos, press coverage and social media posts of the day.

Online sleuths have assisted the FBI in hundreds of Capitol riot investigations, successfully identifying rioters months before they are arrested.

NBC News has reviewed the videos and images used to construct the timelines and compared other images of Mastriano at the rally with those identified by the sleuths. In the images, Mastriano appears to be wearing the same scarf and hat and is in a consistent place in the crowd. In the series of images, Mastriano is accompanied by a woman who appears to be his wife, and Mastriano has publicly acknowledged that his wife was with him that day. He has never disputed his identification in previous images.

The images, shared with NBC News, appear to show Mastriano holding up his cellphone as rioters in the front of the mob face off with police at the Capitol steps. Reconstructed timelines and other videos filmed nearby show rioters would breach this police line within minutes, ripping away a crowd control rope line and rushing past officers up the stairs. The timelines and videos, including unedited versions, that show Mastriano in the crowd were reviewed by NBC News.

A man who appears to be Doug Mastriano takes photos or video with his cell phone on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
A man who appears to be Doug Mastriano takes photos or video with his cellphone near the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.@MichaelCoudrey via Twitter

Online sleuths also identified a video posted by "Stop the Steal" organizer Mike Coudrey on Jan. 6 that appears to show Mastriano taking photos or video with his cellphone as rioters face off with police on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Coudrey's tweet celebrated the mob, which he said "broke through 4 layers of security at the Capitol building.

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment. Mastriano previously said that he “respected all police lines as I came upon them" and that he never stepped foot on the Capitol stairs. One of his campaign aides, Grant Clarkson, was near the front of the mob, NBC previously reported. There has been no evidence that Clarkson entered the Capitol that day and he has insisted he did not.

Mastriano is facing Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, in November.