Every member of the Oregon House Republican caucus has called on their colleague, state Rep. Mike Nearman (R), to resign after video appeared to show him coaching a roomful of people on how to breach the state Capitol despite COVID-19 restrictions.
Nearman subsequently opened a door for a crowd of demonstrators that rushed the Capitol, struggling with police in what would become a precursor to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Congress. Now, he faces misdemeanor charges and believes he will be expelled from the House.
“Today we strongly recommend that you resign from the Oregon State House of Representatives, House District 23 position,” read the two-sentence letter from every House Republican except Nearman.
“Given the newest evidence that has come to light regarding the events of December 21, 2020, it is our belief as friends and colleagues that it is in the best interests of your caucus, your family, yourself, and the state of Oregon for you to step down from office.”
The “newest evidence” in question is a video, flagged by Oregon Public Broadcasting on Friday, showing Nearman coaching a roomful of people on something he called “Operation Hall Pass.”
Frustrated that the Capitol had been closed due to COVID-19, Nearman told the room, “there would be some person’s cell phone, which might be [recites a cell phone number], but that is just random numbers. That’s not anybody’s actual cell phone. And if you say, ‘I’m at the West entrance’ during the session and text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there.”
He added: “I didn’t really say a number. … But if I were to say a number it might have been something like [recites a cellphone number]. You’d have to say what entrance you’re at. But that’s not really going to happen. So don’t worry about that. Nobody said anything.”
The video showed the group discussing possible dates of a demonstration, landing on a Monday. And on Monday, Dec. 21, the Monday after the video was live-streamed, a group of demonstrators showed up outside the Capitol. Surveillance video subsequently showed Nearman opening the right door at the right time to allow the group inside.
In an interview with talk radio host Lars Larson Monday, Nearman confirmed that his comments on the video were tied to his actions on the 21st.
“That video was me kind of setting up the 21st, I think,” he said.
Nearman is facing pressure to leave the legislature from both sides of the aisle: In addition to the Republican caucus letter to Nearman, House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) introduced a resolution Monday to expel Nearman from the legislature. The resolution would require a two-thirds vote, and Nearman told Larson that he believed the votes were there to remove him.
“Everything that I can see says that they do have enough votes to do that,” he said, adding later: “I think they are going to vote to kick me out.”
The representative said that his expulsion from the House would be a first in Oregon history.
“I will be the first,” he said. “So someday, you’re going to be watching Jeopardy, and somebody’s going to say, ‘Who is Mike Nearman?’ And that’s going to be the right answer to that.”
Cristina Cabrera contributed reporting.