A Republican state legislator from Oregon is under fire after a YouTube video discovered by journalists at Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) shows Rep. Mike Nearman explaining step-by-step instructions on how to get into the Oregon State Capitol with his help, just days before an actual breach occurred.
The video is dated December 16, 2020, during a special legislative session. In the clip, Nearman explains to constituents how to text him and which door he could open for them at the Capitol, interspersing his instruction with interjections of denial about knowing anything that was planned.
“We’re talking about setting up Operation Hall Pass,” he says in the video, “which I don’t know anything about and if you accuse me of knowing something about, I’ll deny it.”
He added “but there would be some person’s cell phone which might be,” and proceeded to tell them a phone number that was edited out of the video. “But that was just random numbers that I screened up. That’s not anybody’s actual cell phone. And if you say ‘I am at the west entrance’ during a session in text to that number there, that somebody might exit that door while you’re standing there. But I don’t know anything about that.”
The breach of the Oregon State Capitol took place on December 21, 2020, while lawmakers met inside for a special legislative session to discuss COVID-19 regulations. OPB reported that far-right protesters entered the state Capitol building while calling on Governor Kate Brown and lawmakers to open the economy and end the pandemic restrictions.
Security camera footage shows Nearman appearing to open a side door for protesters to enter the building.
A new report released by an independent investigator found that Nearman’s actions “more likely than not set into motion a chain of events that impeded the ability of (the Capitol facilities manager) and others to function in the workplace, and denied them the benefits of the workplace.”
Nearman was charged in April with first-degree official misconduct and second-degree criminal trespass. He faces a committee hearing on June 9 that will determine the penalties.
“The evidence supports a conclusion that it is more likely than not that Rep. Nearman intentionally aided demonstrators in breaching Capitol security and entering the building on December 21, 2020, when it was closed to the public,” says a seven-page report written by private attorney Melissa Healy.
The Oregonian reported that nearly 30 anonymous officials have filed complaints against Nearman, calling for his removal from office, and the consequences for his conduct will be determined next week.
Newsweek reached out to Governor Brown’s office for comment.