Committee weighs GOP lawmaker role in Oregon Capitol breach

SALEM, Ore. — A half-year after a Republican legislator let violent, far-right protesters into the Oregon State Capitol, a special committee will examine his role and could recommend he be the first member of the House to be expelled in its 160-year history.

Ahead of the inaugural meeting Monday afternoon of the House Special Committee On December 21, 2020, more than 200 people sent written testimony.

Some excoriated Rep. Mike Nearman as a seditionist. Others praised him for letting people into the Capitol, which was closed to the public because of coronavirus safety protocols, saying people should be allowed to attend even though hearings are livestreamed on video.

“Mike Nearman’s behavior … was abhorrent and anti-democratic,” David Alba wrote to the committee. “Furthermore, by aiding and supporting extremists, he has placed people’s lives in danger. He should be removed from office and he is not fit to represent my district.”

After video emerged in local news reports Friday showing Nearman choreographing how he would let protesters into the Capitol, pinpointing the door he would open for them and disclosing his cellphone number so protesters could text him, every other Republican member of the House on Monday strongly recommended he step down.

One Nearman supporter suggested those 22 GOP lawmakers be voted out of office.

“We see you compromising Republicans that whittle away at concepts of morality, liberty, and justice to take a knee to the woke mob,” Casey Ocupe said in written testimony. “May your Republican constituents take no mercy on you.”

On Monday, House Speaker Tina Kotek introduced a resolution that would have the House expel Rep. Mike Nearman if two-thirds of its members vote in favor. She appointed the committee to consider the matter.

Nearman was seen on security camera video opening a door to protesters on Dec. 21 as lawmakers met in emergency session to deal with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Protesters barged into the building and sprayed police with chemical irritants.

Some of the protesters had guns. Among those who gathered outside the Capitol in Salem that day were people espousing false QAnon conspiracy theories about Democrats kidnapping babies. They carried American flags and President Donald Trump banners. One woman had a pitchfork.

Kotek credited riot police, who finally pushed out the protesters, with preventing a full-scale assault like the one by Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. She said some were visibly injured and shaken.

“As we saw in January at the U.S. Capitol, the ramifications could have been dire if law enforcement had not stepped in so quickly,” the Democrat said.

Nearman has not responded to numerous requests from The Associated Press for comment. He told a conservative radio talk show that a video presentation he held on Dec. 16 “was me setting up the 21st.” He indicated that his actions were civil disobedience because he objected to the Capitol being closed to the public.

The special committee, composed of three Democrats and three Republicans, is tasked with examining the events of Dec. 21, “including the lead-up and aftermath, specific to Rep. Nearman’s actions,” said the office of committee chairman Rep. Paul Holvey.

“The committee will look at the available evidence, give Rep. Nearman an opportunity to be heard, and then determine whether there was disorderly behavior and make a recommendation to the House of Representatives on expulsion of Rep. Nearman,” Holvey’s office said in an email.

Nearman also faces two misdemeanor criminal charges and has said he will seek a trial by jury.

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