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Unauthorized staffer may have OK'd robocalls urging Capitol protest, Nebraska AG says

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CBC News’ David Common breaks down what happened on Capitol Hill on Wednesday and how U.S. President Donald Trump stoked discontent among his supporters before he lost the election.

LINCOLN — Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson said Monday that he had no idea that a national attorneys general group of which he is a member had sent out robocalls urging protesters to descend on the U.S. Capitol last week to “stop the steal.”

Peterson, speaking at a press conference called by the governor on an unrelated subject, said it is suspected that a staffer with the Republican Attorneys General Association had authorized the robocalls without permission.

The attorneys generals didn’t authorize the calls, he said.

The Republican Attorneys General Association, whose stated mission is to support the election of GOP attorneys general, is investigating.

On Saturday, NBC news reported that the fundraising wing of the group had issued robocalls a day before the storming of the U.S. Capitol urging people to protest at the building and to urge Congress to “stop the steal.” The fundraising group, the Rule of Law Defense Fund, was also listed as a participating organization on a website set up to promote the rally.

The story prompted State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha to file a public records request on Sunday with Peterson’s office, seeking to discover if any public funds were used to support the robocalls or the GOP organization, and to discover any correspondence between the Nebraska office and the Washington, D.C.-based groups.

On Sunday evening, Peterson’s spokeswoman, Suzanne Gage, said there were no records that would respond to Hunt’s request, which prompted Hunt, on the floor of the Legislature on Monday morning, to express skepticism at how such a conclusion could be reached so quickly.

Peterson, when asked at the press conference about Hunt’s comment, said the lack of records is an indication of the lack of knowledge his office had about the participation of the Rule of Law Defense Fund.

The attorney general said he learned of the robocalls on Thursday at a time he was preparing to draft a bipartisan statement condemning the violent actions at the Capitol with the attorney general of Colorado, a Democrat.

Peterson, who had issued a statement condemning the violent incursion as an “affront” on the U.S. Constitution on Wednesday, said he did not condone or agree with the robocalls.

The storming of the Capitol, which led to five deaths, delayed but did not stop the congressional confirmation of former Vice President Joe Biden’s election as president.

Peterson had been among several Republican attorneys general who signed an amicus brief in support of an unsuccessful, last-ditch lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general to overturn the election results in four battleground states in hopes of making Trump the winner. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit.

Photos: Scenes of violence at U.S. Capitol shock world

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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