PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon lawmaker charged with misconduct and criminal trespass after he let far-right rioters into the state Capitol appears to have told people in a video days beforehand that he would let them into the building if they texted him.
A video posted on YouTube that says it was streamed live on Dec. 16 shows Republican Rep. Mike Nearman coaching constituents on how to text him so they could get into the closed Capitol during the Dec. 21 special legislative session, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.
On that day, prosecutors say he exited the Capitol, allowing demonstrators against COVID-19 restrictions to enter. They attacked authorities with bear spray before authorities forced them back outside. Outside the building, some protesters assaulted reporters and broke glass doors to the building.
The video is posted to a YouTube account called The Black Conservative Preacher. Nearman said in the video he was speaking from the office of the Freedom Foundation, a group tied to conservative billionaires that pays Nearman to serve as a senior fellow, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
Nearman hasn’t entered pleas to the criminal charges and has a court hearing later this month. He has said he’ll seek a jury trial.
Nearman didn’t immediately respond to requests by the media outlets for comment.
In the video, Nearman answers questions from audience members about meeting with lawmakers at the Capitol. Someone brings up the COVID-19 restrictions that closed the Capitol building to members of the public.
He then talks in the video about setting up “Operation Hall Pass” and recites a cellphone number several times.
Additionally, an independent investigator hired by the Legislature completed a personnel investigation, which was released publicly this week. It found that Nearman “more likely than not” intentionally let protesters into the Capitol that day and that Nearman’s actions likely endangered law enforcement and legislative staff.
The House Committee on Conduct will discuss the report in a meeting Wednesday. Committee members will decide whether Nearman violated legislative personnel rules and if so, the committee will recommend how the full House should respond.
A number of lawmakers including Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek have already called for Nearman to resign. Kotek previously stripped Nearman of his committee assignments and rescinded his commission appointments.