One of the nation’s most controversial governors finds himself as a key figure in an unprecedented lawsuit against Trump

Paul LePage. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Maine Gov. Paul LePage has emerged as a key figure in a lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution.
  • LePage’s stay at Trump’s Washington, DC, hotel in early 2017 is under scrutiny.

Maine Gov. Paul LePage finds himself as a key figure in an unprecedented lawsuit against President Donald Trump.

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that a pair of attorneys general have legal standing to sue Trump over claims that he’s violating the Constitution, marking the first time such a lawsuit has cleared that legal hurdle. The suit accuses Trump of violating the foreign and domestic emoluments clause of the Constitution through via his hotel in Washington, DC.

The Maine Republican’s stay at Trump’s Washington hotel in early 2017 was cited by the federal judge, US District Judge Peter J. Messitte, in his ruling as an example of how Trump possibly received an emolument, or financial benefit, from another government figure.

Here’s the relevant portion of the opinion:

“At least one State – the State of Maine – patronized the Hotel when its Governor, Paul LePage, visited Washington to discuss official business with the Federal Government, including discussions with the President. Indeed, on one of those trips, the President and Governor LePage appeared together at a news conference at which the President signed an executive order to review orders of the prior administration that established national monuments within the National Park Service, which could apply to a park and national monument in Maine, which President Obama had established over LePage’s objections in 2016.” […]

“Leaving aside how Maine’s citizens may have felt about the propriety of their Governor living large at the Hotel while on official business in Washington, the fact that States, other than Maryland or the District of Columbia (while, not a State) might patronize the Hotel while on official business rather clearly suggests that Maryland and the District of Columbia may very well feel themselves obliged, i.e., coerced, to patronize the Hotel in order to help them obtain federal favours.”

As The Portland Press Herald reported, LePage’s stay cost a considerable amount. The governor’s security team rang up a $US2,250 charge for just their own rooms, the publication reported.

‘The judge that did that is an imbecile!’

LePage’s press secretary, Julie Rabinowitz, told the Press Herald that his February 2017 stay at the hotel was not an effort to influence the president’s decision making.

“The governor chooses hotels based upon several factors including price, availability and security,” Rabinowitz wrote in an email to the Press Herald. “He has stayed at many different hotels in Washington, DC, and any insinuation or speculation that a stay in a Trump hotel is made with an expectation or hope of some type of quid-pro-quo is false and irresponsible.”

LePage reacted to the news on Wednesday by blasting the federal judge as an “imbecile” during an interview with WGME-TV.

“I didn’t realise I could buy the president so cheap. A night in his hotel and he’s in my back pocket,” LePage said. “That’s all I’m gonna say. The judge that did that is an imbecile! He’s a complete imbecile. That’s all I can tell you. Any District Court judge, whether it’s state or federal, puts that in the paper because I stayed in the hotel is an absolute imbecile. I hope it goes national. I hope he hears it because he’s an absolute imbecile.”

The ruling is likely to be appealed. If it stands, Maryland’s attorney general, Brian Frosh, and DC’s attorney general, Karl Racine, may be able to seek Trump Organisation documents related to the hotel.

Ethics experts and lawmakers have repeatedly raised concerns about officials’ patronage of Trump’s properties, particularly foreign officials. Trump, who passed along his business to his two adult sons and a top Trump Organisation executive, maintains ties to the business. He did not fully divest himself of it as experts had hoped.

“While the Trump Organisation is not a party to the lawsuit, the court’s decision today does significantly narrow the scope of the case” to encompass only the DC hotel, the Trump Organisation said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The court has yet to rule on several additional arguments, which we believe should result in a complete dismissal.”

Trump has pledged to donate his hotels’ profits from foreign officials to the Treasury. The Trump Organisation last month said it had done so.
LePage has sparked controversy on a number of occassions, particularly during the 2016 campaign season. He made a series of racially charged remarks and even left a voicemail for a state lawmaker whom he called a “little son-of-a-b—-,” challenging him to “prove that I’m racist.”