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Politics

LePage: 'We Need a Donald Trump to Show Some Authoritarian Power'

Maine Gov. Paul LePage Tuesday reiterated his support for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, telling WVOM radio in Bangor that the country is teetering on the brink of anarchy and needs an authoritarian leader.

The governor also criticized fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. It didn’t take long for LePage’s statements to make national headlines.

The governor’s comments came as Trump faces withering criticism after the release of a tape in which the real estate mogul and TV personality discusses groping women and saying he can force himself on them because of his celebrity. In his radio appearance Tuesday, LePage dismissed the leaked 2005 tape as “ancient history.”

“The bottom line is this: Is he [Trump] a slimeball? I’d be the first one to say, not my idea of a guy I want my daughter going after,” LePage says.

But the governor also offered a full-throated defense of Trump. He characterized the election as a battle between quote “the elites and the common man.” This battle, he said, has pushed the country to the precipice of anarchy.

“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,” he says.

Trump has been criticized for suggesting he would target the press and political enemies if elected. On Sunday he said he would attempt to jail his rival Hillary Clinton. Such threats have been characterized as authoritarian — the concentration of power in a single elected official at the expense of political and personal freedoms.

Alison Beyea, director of the ACLU of Maine, says the LePage statement about installing an authoritarian regime directly contradicts the intent of the U.S. Constitution, which was drafted to guard against the consolidation of power in one branch of government or official.

“The governor is saying 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,” she says.

LePage’s comments quickly ricocheted across social media and national news outlets. But he also caused a stir at home when he assailed Republicans who have abandoned or refused to support Trump. U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is among the latter.

Collins told NPR in August that Trump isn’t worthy of the presidency because he’s temperamental, dangerous and fails to represent the Republican Party’s principles.

“A fundamental Republican principle is to respect the dignity and worth of every individual. He clearly does not,” she says.

Collins reiterated her objections to Trump in a statement responding to the leaked tape over the weekend.

Another prominent Republican, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, called for Trump to drop out of the race after the tape became public, saying he should be replaced by “someone who has the dignity and stature to run for the highest office in the greatest democracy on earth.”

LePage Tuesday professed no strong feelings for either.

“I am no Condoleeza Rice fan, I am no Susan Collins fan. That’s not the kind of Republican that I am,” he says.

The governor’s comments about Rice marked a sharp departure from his statement on the same radio station in July that she’d be a perfect fit in a Trump administration.

“Condoleeza Rice, they say she doesn’t want it. Guess what? The country asked you for your help. We need you. Condoleeza, we need you now,” he says.

LePage was asked about Trump’s comments on the 2005 tape during the interview.

“It’s one thing to be in a locker room talk, it’s another to be in the White House and do it,” he says, in reference to President Bill Clinton’s affair with an intern.

LePage says Trump was a better alternative than Hillary Clinton. He also questions the patriotism of Clinton’s supporters.

“I’m sorry, but as an American citizen who honors the flag, who honors our Constitution, I could not see how any red-blooded American citizen could vote for Hillary Clinton,” he says.

The governor was first elected after embracing the tea party movement, a wave spurred by a libertarian ideology that believes in limited government and rejects the concentration of government power.

Collins, meanwhile, has used her popularity to support Republican legislative candidates and she supported LePage’s 2014 re-election bid. Recent polls show she is the most popular elected official in Maine, and a recent survey by the Morning Consult found that she’s the second most popular senator in the country.

"Senator 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," says Annie Clark, a spokeswoman for Collins.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that he can no longer defend Trump and canceled an appearance with him at an event in his home state of Wisconsin.

Trump has scheduled a rally in Bangor for Saturday afternoon. LePage has introduced him at his three previous rallies in Maine.