AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that Republican Donald Trump may be needed as president to show “authoritarian power” in the United States, and suggested the U.S. Constitution has been “broken” under President Obama.

“Sometimes, I wonder that our Constitution is not only broken, but we need a Donald Trump to show some authoritarian power in our country and bring back the rule of law because we’ve had eight years of a president, he’s an autocrat, he just does it on his own, he ignores Congress, and every single day we’re slipping into anarchy,” LePage said on a radio talk show.

He said the wealthy and political elite in Washington control the U.S. government and he believes Trump would break that up.

LePage also expressed dissatisfaction with Sen. Susan Collins and other top Republicans. Collins, who enjoys some of the highest approval ratings among U.S. senators and is one of the most popular elected officials in Maine, has said she cannot support the billionaire businessman at the top of her party’s ticket.

“I am no Susan Collins fan,” LePage said. “That’s not the kind of Republican that I am. I am from the Grand Old Party, I am from the party of Ronald Reagan, that is different than the people that claim to be Republicans that are out there shooting their mouth off.”

LePage said Trump is “not the kind of person I would want my daughter going after.” But he said he believes that Trump as president would protect national security and improve the economy. LePage also criticized the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.


“She lies, she takes money from foreign nations, which is not legal in this country, and she gets a free pass,” LePage said. “But as an American citizen who honors the flag and who honors our Constitution, I could not see how any red-blooded American citizen could vote for Hillary Clinton.”


An authoritarian government “concentrates power in the hands of a leader or a small elite that is not constitutionally responsible to the body of the people,” as defined by the Encyclopedia Brittanica. “Authoritarian leaders often exercise power arbitrarily and without regard to existing bodies of law, and they usually cannot be replaced by citizens choosing freely among various competitors in elections.”

Peter Steele, LePage’s communications director, said an email response to a request for comment that the governor was not suggesting authoritarian rule for the United States. He also said LePage had not recently been contacted by the Trump campaign, and that LePage and his staff were not taking questions regarding the Tuesday radio show appearance.

LePage’s remarks on authoritarianism come just two days after Trump said during the second presidential debate that if he were elected he would appoint a special prosecutor to go after Clinton over her use of a private email server while she was U.S. secretary of state. Trump told Clinton she would “be in jail” if he were president.



Those comments raised alarm among political scientists and others, who said the jailing of political rivals is reminiscent of tactics used by dictators who often had overthrown their governments from within.

Adrienne LeBas, a political scientist at American University, told The New York Times that Trump’s comment was “a threat to the rule of law, a threat to the stability of our institutions, a threat to basic agreements that are necessary for democracy to function.”

LePage’s statements echoing Trump’s warning to Clinton drew a rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine.

“The Constitution was written to protect Americans from the very thing Gov. LePage is calling for – an all-powerful, overreaching government. The governor says he wants to bring back the rule of law, but it actually sounds like he wants to replace the rule of law with the rule of tyranny,” ACLU of Maine Executive Director Alison Beyea said in a prepared statement.

Phil Bartlett, chairman of the Maine Democratic Party, also reacted to LePage’s statements. He said Trump has threatened Americans’ civil liberties and “even their physical safety” during his campaign.

“Gov. LePage has a long history of intimidating anyone who disagrees with him, and of refusing to be held accountable by the press or the public,” Bartlett said, also in a prepared statement. “The last thing our country needs is Gov. LePage’s vision on a national scale. His remarks and those of Donald Trump cannot be taken lightly. Absolute rule is not the American way.”


But Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, was dismissive of any friction between Republicans over Trump.

“I’m chalking a lot of this up to natural tension around a candidate who is unconventional and challenging the status quo,” Savage said of Trump in an email. “We continue to work to support our Republican candidates up and down the ticket. I have no sense of anything unraveling.” With 200 candidates running for office, statewide party officials don’t make a point “of throwing ourselves in the middle of every little disagreement,” Savage said, adding that candidates and elected Republicans have their own and often divergent opinions about many topics.


Trump is expected to make a campaign stop Saturday in Bangor at the Cross Insurance Center. It’s unclear whether LePage will attend, but the governor did appear at an event in Turner with Trump’s son, Eric Trump, and his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, last week. LePage previously has appeared with the Republican nominee, including at one stop in Bangor and two in Portland.

In describing Obama as an “autocrat,” which is defined as a person who rules with unlimited authority, LePage was evidently referring to Obama’s use of executive orders. Obama has issued executive orders in such areas as immigration and environmental policy, prompting outrage among Republicans, as well as court challenges that have turned back some of his efforts, according to The American Presidency Project at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Obama had issued 252 executive orders as of Sept. 20, through 7½ years of his presidency, compared with 291 by George W. Bush in his two complete terms and 381 by Reagan during his two terms.



The governor’s criticism of Obama in this regard is striking, since LePage himself has a history of pushing the limits of his own executive powers, including refusing to issue voter-approved bonds for land conservation and for the construction of affordable housing for seniors in Maine. He also threatened to withhold state funds for a publicly funded charter school if the organization that ran the school hired one of his political rivals, House Speaker Mark Eves, to be its president. Eves subsequently sued LePage in the federal courts, a case that is pending appeal.

LePage’s statements about Trump came during an appearance on a radio talk show hosted by George Hale and Ric Tyler on Bangor-based WVOM. The statements further highlight the split among Republicans over Trump’s candidacy in the wake of both his latest debate appearance and statements he made about women in 2005 that were made public last week.

LePage was largely dismissive of the newly released “Access Hollywood” video of Trump, saying, among other things, “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.”

The governor characterized the videotaped comments as “ancient history.”

LePage also said he was no fan of Condoleezza Rice, who served as U.S. secretary of state under President Bush. Rice was among a number of prominent Republicans who called Saturday for Trump to withdraw from the race.


Just three months ago, LePage told the same radio hosts that Rice would be a good vice presidential running mate for Trump and listed her among others he would like to see on the ticket. “They say she doesn’t want it,” LePage said at the time. “Well, guess what? The country asks you for your help. We need you. Condoleezza, we need you now.”

On Tuesday, LePage also brought up former President Bill Clinton and his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky in the 1990s, suggesting Trump’s words were not as bad as the former president’s behavior, which led to Clinton’s impeachment.

“I’m sorry guys, but there was smudge on the blue dress,” LePage told Tyler and Hale, echoing Trump’s effort to deflect attention from the “Access Hollywood” video and make Bill Clinton the issue. “And that was by a president of the United States of America.”


Collins is among other Republicans in Maine who issued statements about Trump last week.

“Donald Trump’s lewd comments are the latest in a series of remarks he has made, ranging from inappropriate to reprehensible, that demonstrate why he is unsuitable for the presidency. It was comments like these, including the statements he made about (Sen.) John McCain, a disabled reporter, the family of a fallen soldier and more, that caused me to decide this summer that I could not support his candidacy,” Collins said in an emailed statement Friday.


LePage’s comments Tuesday were quickly picked up by national news outlets, including CNN. Brent Littlefield, a top LePage political adviser, said he wasn’t handling questions about the radio show and directed a reporter to LePage’s staff.

LePage vowed in August to stop speaking to the media, mainly print news reporters, after racially charged statements he made about black and Hispanic drug traffickers being “the enemy” in the battle against heroin addiction Maine.


Littlefield, who also advises Republican Bruce Poliquin, noted that Collins supports Poliquin’s re-election bid to represent Maine’s 2nd District in Congress. Poliquin was critical of the lewd Trump comments reported last week but has so far avoided endorsing him or even saying whether he will vote for Trump.

Poliquin continued to dodge questions about Trump on Tuesday. He didn’t respond to queries on the subject from two reporters during a tour of the New Balance shoe factory in Skowhegan.

Collins has said she won’t vote for Trump or Clinton.

She seemed unfazed Tuesday by LePage’s statement that she wasn’t his kind of Republican.

“Sen. Collins recognizes that emotions are running high as a result of this election and she will continue to work closely with the governor, his staff and his administration on issues important to the state of Maine,” Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark wrote in a message to the Press Herald.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.