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Oregon lawmaker faces expulsion in assault on state Capitol

UPDATED: Mon., June 7, 2021

Pro-Trump and anti-mask demonstrators hold a rally Dec. 21 outside the Oregon State Capitol as legislators meet for an emergency session in Salem, Ore.  (Andrew Selsky)
Pro-Trump and anti-mask demonstrators hold a rally Dec. 21 outside the Oregon State Capitol as legislators meet for an emergency session in Salem, Ore. (Andrew Selsky)
By Andrew Selsky Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. – Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to expel a Republican lawmaker who allowed violent protesters into the state Capitol in December. Fellow Republicans said Monday they want him out too.

Video that emerged late Friday in local news reports that apparently showed Rep. Mike Nearman choreographing how he would let protesters into the Capitol, which was closed to the public, exploded like a bombshell in the Legislature on Monday. For even the minority Republicans in the House, it was too much.

“Today, we strongly recommend that you resign from the Oregon State House of Representatives, House District 23 position,” all 22 Republicans in the House said in a joint letter to Nearman.

“Given the newest evidence that has come to light … it is our beliefs as friends and colleagues that it is in the best interest of your caucus, your family, yourself, and the state of Oregon for you to step down from your office,” they said.

Kotek also introduced a resolution that says if two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives concur, Rep. Mike Nearman would be expelled from the House. Minutes before the House opened its floor session late Monday morning, her office announced that Kotek appointed a committee to consider expulsion.

The committee, composed of three Democrats and three Republicans, will convene later this week and take up the resolution, Kotek’s press release said.

But with Republicans now calling for Nearman to step down, his fate appeared sealed. If Nearman does not resign, there was little doubt that an overwhelming number of House members would vote to cast him out.

The incident on Dec. 21 rattled lawmakers and staff inside the Capitol and foreshadowed the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by rioters spurred on by then President Donald Trump. Several of those who were among the crowds in Salem on Dec. 21 later were in Washington during the U.S. Capitol attack.

As lawmakers met in emergency session on Dec. 21 to deal with economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, far-right rioters entered the building. They sprayed chemical irritants at police who finally expelled them. Outside, protesters broke windows on the Capitol and assaulted journalists.

Later, security camera video emerged showing Nearman opening a door to the capitol, which was closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing protesters to enter. Nearman allegedly told people in a video days earlier that he would let them in if they texted him, and he provided his cell phone number. The existence of the video was first reported Friday by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

In her resolution, Kotek said personnel who were authorized to be in the Oregon Capitol described the events on Dec. 21 as intense and stressful, terrifying and distressing.

“Law enforcement officers were visibly injured and shaken due to the demonstrators’ action,” Kotek added.

“The severity of Representative Nearman’s actions and last week’s revelation that they were premeditated require a special committee to immediately consider expelling him from the House of Representatives,” Kotek said. “He knowingly put the physical safety of everyone in the Capitol -– lawmakers, staff and law enforcement -– in jeopardy.”

Her resolution cites the Oregon Constitution, which empowers the House of Representatives to punish a representative for disorderly behavior.

“With the concurrence of two-thirds of the members of the House of Representatives, Representative Nearman (shall) be expelled from the House of Representatives,” the resolution says.

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

Nearman hasn’t responded to repeated interview requests. He did say on a conservative radio show last month: “The Oregon State Police spent over four months investigating me. … Do you think these guys have anything better to do?”

Kotek said police in the state Capitol prevented the situation from escalating.

“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,” Kotek said.Members of the new committee are Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene; Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby; Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland; Rep. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles; Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Lake Oswego; and Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass.

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