WASHINGTON — A staffer from Doug Mastriano’s Pennsylvania gubernatorial campaign who helped block media access to an event over the weekend was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when he appeared to smile and laughing as rioters destroyed media equipment on the Capitol grounds.
Grant Clarkson is one of Mastriano’s campaign associates who blocked reporters from covering an event over the weekend hosted by Mastriano and Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate, according to an NBC News analysis of the photos and videos of the event corresponding to its online presence on social networks. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Mastriano, a far-right state senator who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results and was on Capitol grounds himself on January 6. .
Photos and video obtained by NBC News appear to show Clarkson, a former congressional intern who most recently worked as a legislative aide for the Republican caucus in the Pennsylvania Legislative Assembly, present on the restricted grounds of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Footage unearthed by members of the “Sedition Hunters” community investigating the Capitol breach appears to show Clarkson on the west side of the Capitol just above a retaining wall, standing on a pillar at the top of the stairs on the east side of the Capitol , as a crowd breaks through doors with smashed windows, then watch and smile as rioters destroy media equipment on the Capitol grounds.
There is no evidence that Clarkson entered the Capitol, and he denied doing so. But additional photos and videos obtained by NBC News appeared to show a childhood friend who accompanied Clarkson on Jan. 6 breaching the Capitol and joining the crowd pushing against officers fighting to protect lawmakers inside. The friend, who was first identified by members of the “Sedition Hunters” community after they began investigating Clarkson, has not been charged with a crime.
Reached on his cell phone Monday, Clarkson did not deny that he was at the Capitol on January 6 or that he was accompanied by a childhood friend who entered the building. He also did not deny his role in blocking the media at Saturday’s event.
“I, uh, don’t remember breaking any cameras,” Clarkson said when asked why he was smiling as he watched the destruction of media equipment.
“You’re clearly going to put my name there, and probably some pictures of me,” Clarkson said.
“I didn’t go inside,” Clarkson said. “That’s the only thing I’ll tell you is that I didn’t come in.”
In an exchange with CBS News’ Robert Costa on Saturday, the man who appears to be Clarkson denied he was part of the campaign. Clarkson has an email account on Mastriano’s campaign website and denied an NBC News reporter access to a previous campaign event.
Clarkson did not say whether the FBI had contacted him about his presence on the Capitol grounds. The FBI, which does not typically comment on ongoing investigations, declined to say whether anyone in the office had told Clarkson about his friend or any video Clarkson may have recorded on Jan. 6 that would be helpful to the investigation. .
Mastriano’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Clarkson’s activities during the Capitol riot or Saturday’s campaign event.
At least two of the other men who blocked media access to the campaign event on Saturday have already been photographed with Mastriano, including a man wearing a tri-fold hat.
Videos and photos of the Capitol riot appear to show Mastriano passing police barricades on the north side of the Capitol just after they broke in and walking down the east stairway.
Sam Lazar, who had been photographed with Mastriano at least half a dozen times, bragged about “masking” officers during the Jan. 6 riot. The video shows Lazar using a megaphone to tell other members of the crowd to steal the officers’ weapons and shows him repeatedly tearing down police barricades around the Capitol while dressed in a military equipment.
Prior to his arrest in July, when his image was featured on the FBI’s Capitol Violence page, Lazar attended a Mastriano event featuring former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, another supporter of Trump’s election lies of 2020. He pleaded not guilty and is being held for assault and obstructing law enforcement.
Another Mastriano Support, Sandra Weyer, has been charged with illegally entering the Capitol on January 6. Federal authorities say she encouraged other rioters to “mask” a New York Times photographer who was being attacked by two rioters. Weyer was also at the east doors leading to the rotunda on January 6, not far from Clarkson. She pleaded not guilty after being charged in February.
Barnette, the GOP Senate candidate who organized the joint rally with Mastriano, was also in Washington on Jan. 6 and was Point marching to the Capitol with members of the Proud Boys. Barnette’s campaign said she was in town “supporting President Trump and demanding accountability for the election,” but had no connection to the Proud Boys.
Nearly 800 people have been arrested in connection with the January 6 attack and more than 280 have pleaded guilty. More than 2,500 people are believed to have entered the Capitol and hundreds more assaulted law enforcement or members of the media outside the building.