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Oregon lawmaker faces expulsion in assault on state Capitol

FILE - In this Dec. 21, 2020, file photo, pro-Trump and anti-mask demonstrators hold a rally outside the Oregon State Capitol as legislators meet for an emergency session in Salem, Ore. Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to expel a lawmaker who allowed violent protesters into the Oregon State Capitol that day. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky, File)

SALEM (AP) — Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek wants to expel a Republican lawmaker who allowed violent protesters into the state Capitol in December.

Kotek 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.

The Dec. 21 incident 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 Dec. 21 later were in Washington during the U.S. Capitol attack.

As lawmakers met in emergency session 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 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 cellphone number. The video was reported Friday by Oregon Public Broadcasting.

In her resolution, Kotek said personnel who were authorized to be in the Oregon Capitol described the Dec. 21 events 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.

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky