Speed Reads

Law and Order

Oregon House expels GOP lawmaker caught on camera collaborating with Capitol-breaching mob

The Oregon House voted 59-1 late last week to expel state Rep. Mike Nearman (R) for his role in letting armed demonstrators into the Oregon Capitol during a Dec. 21, 2020, session. The lone vote against expulsion was Nearman, who argued he was constitutionally obligated to let citizens into the Capitol, closed to the public under COVID-19 safety rules. The chamber's other 22 Republicans and 37 Democrats disagreed. Nearman is the first sitting representative in Oregon history to be expelled.

Nearman was captured on security camera exiting the Capitol and leaving the door open for right-wing protesters to enter the building, where they clashed with police. Among the crowd who breached the Capitol were rioters with insignia of the militant far-right Patriot Prayer group and Three Percenter militia; one had on Confederate flag paraphernalia, and some were armed with rifles.

That surveillance video, released in January, was enough for Marion County's district attorney to charge Nearman with two misdemeanors, House Democratic leaders to call for his resignation, and Nearman to be stripped of all committee assignments. After a second video, from Dec. 16, surfaced in early June showing Nearman coyly coaching a group to text him when they were outside the Capitol, his House GOP colleagues urged him to step down. He refused. 

Nearman "made a decision to intentionally come up with a plan to let people into the building, he did not know how that would turn out, and he was comfortable with that," House GOP leader Christine Drazan told Oregon public radio before the expulsion vote. "I am not comfortable with that. There could easily have been a death on that day."

Nearman's seat will remain empty for the last few weeks of the legislative session, then the county commissioners in his district will select someone to fill out the remaining 18 months of his term, The Oregonian explains. Under Oregon law, that person must be in the same party, meaning Nearman will be replaced by a Republican. 

"Legislators faced a clear-cut case" for expelling Nearman, The Oregonian said in an editorial Sunday, and "Oregonians should take great satisfaction that every House Republican other than Nearman joined Democrats in voting to oust him from the chamber," sending "a resounding message to Nearman, fellow legislators, and the public that this House, often divided on policy and tactics, still stands together against threats to its legitimacy, integrity, and security."