Immediately following the FBI’s Aug. 8 search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate, former Gov. Paul LePage and other leading Maine Republicans denounced the action, suggesting it was motivated by politics rather than illegality.

They apparently haven’t changed their minds since, despite revelations Trump had taken hundreds of classified documents – including many with top secret designations and some reportedly related to the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal. A Department of Justice court filing posted late Tuesday night suggested that Trump’s lawyers may have lied to the FBI and hid documents from investigators during an earlier attempt to recover them.

LePage, one of Trump’s earliest high-profile backers in 2016, asserted on Aug. 9 that the search had turned the U.S. into a “banana republic” – a disparaging term that originally referred to Central American countries whose governments and economies were effectively controlled by the United Fruit Co., a New Orleans-based banana conglomerate.

Former Gov. Paul LePage, joined by his wife, Ann, and former congressman Bruce Poliquin, walks to the State House to submit signatures to the Secretary of State to have his name placed on the 2022 ballot. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“This is not what America’s about,” he told WABI television on Aug. 9. “This is not the Constitution of the United States. We’re being taken over by the oligarchs, the elitists.”

LePage declined an interview request and refused to comment on whether he had changed his views in any way since via his political consultant, Brent Littlefield, who said he would prefer the Republican gubernatorial nominee be interviewed about solar energy policy.

Former 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin, who also is seeking to regain his former office in November, did not respond to an interview request or to emailed questions about whether he believed the search was justified.


“This is shocking,” Poliquin said in an Aug. 9 statement. “Americans are concerned, many are outraged. Joe Biden and his Justice team must answer questions. At a time when Democrats are making government bigger and more powerful, Americans are worried about their freedoms.”

Maine Republican Party Chair Demi Kouzounas released a statement Aug. 9 saying “the integrity of our nation is at stake” and calling on the Department of Justice to release “an immediate and full explanation of what happened.”

“If this raid is part of a political witch hunt or to retrieve some documents for the National Archives, it’s entirely and grossly inappropriate,” she said at the time. “A politically motivated raid on a former president’s home without incredibly high justification is a path that this country should never take.”

The party’s executive director and spokesman, Jason Savage, said the statement still stands in its entirety. “It’s too early to tell what the full story is with any of this,” he said via email. “That’s why her statement, which sets a standard for what wouldn’t be appropriate, stands.”

Since those statements were made, the Department of Justice has disclosed that the search followed months of unsuccessful attempts to recover classified documents improperly taken and stored by the former president after he left office. Trump’s team turned over hundreds of classified documents in January and during a June meeting at Mar-a-Lago, including items with top secret designations given to the nation’s most sensitive secrets. They claimed Trump had no others.

But when agents obtained a federal search warrant they found more than 100 additional classified documents, including some so secret the FBI’s counterintelligence personnel and DOJ attorneys lacked the clearance level to review them. Some of the documents were found in Trump’s office desk drawer along with his passport, an indication he personally knew they were there. Others were found in a storage room at the property, which doubles as a social club and event venue.


The Republican nominee in Maine’s 1st District, Ed Thelander, said via email Wednesday that the search was unprecedented and had divided the nation, but he did not say if he thought it was justified. “The FBI has an obligation to be fully transparent with the reasons why they conducted this search,” he said. “Without complete transparency, the country will only be further divided.”

Sen. Susan Collins, the only Republican in New England’s congressional delegation, had taken a more nuanced response to the search than the others, initially saying it was shocking, but that people needed more information from the DOJ to make a judgment.


Collins – who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee alongside Maine’s junior senator, independent Angus King – said she wanted to review the classified documents recovered in the search.

“This is an evolving situation. Some light has been shed, but there is still much more to learn,” Collins said in a written statement to the Press Herald Wednesday.

“There is simply no justification for violence or threats of violence under any circumstances, whether or not one agrees with the way the FBI and the Department of Justice proceeded in this case,” she added, referencing threats made against the agency for executing the raid.

Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston who studies presidential scandals, said it was not at all clear that backing Trump on this issue would pay political dividends and that it was damaging to U.S. democracy.

“Doubling down on Trump now may very well risk political figures looking oblivious or downright complicitous in his actions,” Rottinghaus said in an email.  “The more Republicans justify Trump’s potentially illegal actions, the more democratic norms are eroded. There simply can be no orderly democratic rule without the rule of law.”

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