A couple of month after the 2016 presidential election, Gov. Paul LePage despatched a letter to President-elect Donald Trump congratulating him on his “well-deserved and overwhelming” election.
However that wasn’t the one function of the letter. LePage, who had two years left in his second time period as Maine’s governor, was additionally on the lookout for a job: overseeing nationwide welfare reform within the Trump administration.
“I’m writing to precise my robust curiosity able inside your administration,” LePage wrote, noting that Trump obtained one electoral vote in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, which he dubbed “LePage Nation.”
“With my private expertise rising up in extreme poverty and my important file of feat in reforming welfare in Maine, in addition to stopping the enlargement of Medicaid beneath Obamacare,” he continued, “I consider I might be instrumental as a nationwide level particular person for welfare reform, working in your behalf with different states to reform their welfare packages.”
That wasn’t the one time LePage sought a place in Trump’s administration.
In summer season 2017, because the governor was making frequent journeys to Washington, D.C., and staying on the Trump Worldwide Resort, he expressed “robust curiosity” in changing into the chief government officer for the Millennium Problem Corp., an unbiased U.S. authorities international assist group.
“I’m desperate to take my expertise coping with governmental budgets as excessive as $7 billion, mixed with my private-sector enterprise profession and my lifelong ardour for serving to the poor, to a global stage,” LePage wrote. “Thanks for contemplating me for as (sic) CEO of the Millennium Problem Company.”
Particulars of LePage’s efforts to land a job within the administration earlier than his time period expired haven’t beforehand been reported and are contained in official data maintained by the Maine State Archives.
The paperwork, together with LePage’s official calendar, present LePage was actively in search of positions within the administration for himself and his allies whereas additionally waging public battles in assist of Trump’s agenda, particularly associated to points such because the Reasonably priced Care Act, welfare and immigration.
LePage is in search of a 3rd nonconsecutive time period in workplace. He’s operating in opposition to incumbent Democratic Gov. Janet Mills, who clashed with LePage repeatedly when she served as lawyer normal, and political newcomer, Sam Hunkler, an unbiased who is just not elevating cash for his marketing campaign.
Regardless of declaring he was “Trump earlier than Trump,” LePage has dodged questions from reporters concerning the former president and he has criticized the Division of Justice’s raid on Trump’s Florida residence to get better extremely categorised paperwork.
Marketing campaign officers didn’t make LePage obtainable for an interview final week. As an alternative, they offered their very own written statements saying LePage all the time deliberate to complete his time period earlier than beginning any job with Trump and that he and his spouse, Ann, had little interest in shifting to Washington.
“There was no likelihood that Gov. LePage would ever step down previous to his time period as Governor ending,” stated John McGough, who was chief of workers from 2011-2018. “That’s simply wishful pondering by the intelligentsia. Paul LePage took his tasks as a steward of the Maine folks very critically. A very good instance of his work ethic is that courting again to the start of his first time period, he served as Mayor of Waterville till the final days previous to his inauguration as Governor.”
McGough additionally stated that it was the White Home that recommended LePage lead the Millennium Problem Corp., however the former governor determined to not pursue the place.
The letters and different archival data didn’t comprise any indication that LePage would solely settle for a place on the finish of his time period or that the White Home was actively recruiting him.
Though he didn’t find yourself working for Trump, LePage made a number of journeys to D.C. for black tie dinners on the White Home and to debate points resembling welfare reform, changing Obamacare, vitality coverage and nationwide monument designations.
His 2016 letter providing to supervise nationwide welfare reform did generate a handwritten response from Trump, which the governor obtained a pair weeks later.
“Paul – I’m serious about this. Greatest needs,” Trump wrote in all capital letters on high of the primary web page of LePage’s letter earlier than sending it again to Maine.
Trump additionally highlighted a paragraph the place LePage wrote that welfare reform was a key a part of his two campaigns and famous that he was reelected in 2014 with “essentially the most votes ever solid for a Governor in Maine’s historical past.”
“Nice,” Trump wrote within the margin.
Trump’s post-presidency press workplace didn’t reply to questions on LePage’s outreach and whether or not the previous president was supporting LePage’s reelection marketing campaign in opposition to Mills.
That change with Trump about welfare reform got here as LePage was dealing with opposition at residence, not solely from Democrats but in addition from fellow Republicans. He’d additionally simply escaped an impeachment effort in early 2016 over his menace to withhold funding from a constitution faculty that sought to rent one among his most vocal Democratic opponents, former Home Speaker Mark Eves. LePage dismissed the impeachment effort, which failed, as a “political witch hunt that had completely no advantage.”
LePage’s correspondence with Trump wasn’t all enterprise.
In January 2017, he directed workers to ship Trump a replica of a letter he was given by Jean “Duke” Dulac, an Augusta barber who, earlier than his demise this month, was identified for his political predictions. The letter was written by a buyer of Dulac’s who apologized for questioning the barber’s prediction 18 months earlier than the election that Trump would win the presidency.
“Pricey President Trump, I not too long ago visited with a barber pal who gave me a replica of the enclosed letter,” LePage wrote by hand. “It dawned on me that you’d get a kick out of it. This similar barber predicted I might be elected Governor a yr earlier than the election.”
LePage’s notice additionally directed workers to “Sort on the small letterhead. He’ll get a kick out of it.”
The letter in search of a job overseeing nationwide welfare reform appeared to have put LePage on the radar. Earlier than Trump took workplace, congressional Republicans reached out to LePage for concepts about the right way to enhance or change Obamacare. LePage responded in January 2017 to particular questions from congressional leaders taking purpose at able-bodied adults with out dependents who obtained Medicaid, amongst different issues.
Days later, LePage wrote on Jan. 17 to the administration about one other concern that long-occupied his consideration – permitting the state, reasonably than the Federal Vitality Regulatory Fee, to manage small hydropower services.
That letter preceded a three-day journey to Washington, D.C., for Trump’s inauguration on the invitation of the Republican Governors Affiliation. LePage and his workers stayed on the Hyatt Place Washington.
The next month, LePage would write the primary of a number of letters of advice for folks in search of positions within the Trump Administration.
On Feb. 2, he wrote on behalf of Lance Henderson, who LePage stated was essential to his reelection marketing campaign, chargeable for unsolicited mail, telemarketing and overseeing seven subject places of work and a workers of three dozen folks. The letter described Henderson as “fairly succesful and very loyal.”
“This man is nice,” LePage neatly wrote by hand in cursive on the finish of the letter subsequent to his signature.
LePage would additionally present letters of advice for Sen. Rick Bennett on March 20, 2017 (LePage highlighted Bennett’s expertise working with companies in Singapore), and for Mary Mayhew, his former Well being and Human Companies chief who oversaw his welfare reforms, on June 28, 2018. LePage’s letters recommend Mayhew was in search of a place as an undersecretary of the U.S. Division of Agriculture or within the U.S. Division of Well being and Human Companies, whereas Bennett was being beneficial for a State Division job within the Asia-Pacific area.
LePage once more emphasised loyalty when recommending Mayhew.
“Mary was a celebrity who completed very tough reforms within the face of withering assaults from the media, social service activists and particular curiosity teams,” he stated. “She is a tricky, loyal and can-do administrator who is devoted to crafting and implementing good public coverage.”
After the inauguration, LePage would return to D.C. in late February, this time staying 4 nights on the Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown lodge. He was there to attend the Nationwide Governors Affiliation’s winter assembly, its government roundtable and associated company occasions. His official schedule included a gathering with the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Affiliation, which he chaired. Speaking factors for the occasion targeted on offshore vitality exploration and manufacturing, primarily oil and gasoline.
Whereas in D.C., LePage was invited to have lunch with Vice President Mike Pence on the vice chairman’s residence. He was scheduled to carry a breakout session on welfare reform for CPAC, or the Conservative Political Motion Convention, in addition to an in-studio interview with Fox Information.
His journey included a morning assembly scheduled on the White Home with President Trump, in addition to a gathering with different governors, Trump, Pence and Cupboard officers. That night, LePage and his spouse had been invited to a black tie dinner with Trump and his spouse, Melania.
Lower than two weeks later, LePage wrote to Home Speaker Paul Ryan to say Republicans weren’t going far sufficient to repeal and change Obamacare.
LePage referred to as for a “actually conservative, free-market alternative of Obamacare that might utterly roll again Medicaid enlargement for non-disabled adults and supply Medicaid to states within the type of block grants.”
“The American folks have despatched a transparent message to Washington, D.C., that they’re now not prepared to tolerate half-measures and politicians who don’t hold their guarantees,” LePage stated. “This motion resulted within the inconceivable election of maybe essentially the most reform minded, anti-establishment president in fashionable historical past.”
LePage included particulars of his upbringing in his letter to Ryan.
“I’m the strolling image of the American Dream,” he wrote. “My transition from childhood homelessness to managing one of many state’s most revered companies had completely nothing to do with authorities handouts and every little thing to do with exhausting work and persistence.
“That’s the story I inform limousine liberals who say I don’t have empathy for the poor as a result of I veto Medicaid enlargement payments,” he added.
LePage could not have benefited from welfare packages, however he did obtain assist alongside the best way, together with from businessmen who helped him get into school and paid his freshman yr tuition.
LePage was again in D.C. two days after writing to Ryan, and this time had separate conferences about changing Obamacare with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, and Rep. Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican who based the conservative Freedom Caucus and would later grow to be Trump’s chief of workers.
Throughout that two-day go to to D.C., LePage stayed on the Vacation Inn. However on a number of future journeys, he would keep on the Trump Worldwide Resort, a transfer that might later entangle LePage in Trump’s emolument’s lawsuit.
In his ultimate two years in workplace, LePage and his workers stayed on the Trump lodge a couple of dozen occasions, reserving 40 rooms and spending at the very least $22,000, in response to paperwork obtained by the Press Herald in 2019. Costs of the rooms for LePage, his workers and safety element ranged from $362 to $1,100 an evening.
Watchdogs had been involved that Trump was utilizing the lodge to generate profits off his presidency and that officers touring to D.C. would keep there to curry favor with the president. The price of the rooms additionally was flagged by the state controller’s workplace for exceeding the utmost allowance.
Throughout his two-day go to, LePage was additionally scheduled to satisfy with U.S. Well being and Human Companies Secretary Tom Value, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and Paul Winfree, the deputy assistant to the president, deputy director of the home coverage council and director of funds coverage. The conferences targeted on welfare reform.
A couple of week after his journey to D.C. to debate welfare reform, LePage wrote Ryan once more, calling for “braveness, management and imaginative and prescient” in repealing Obamacare.
Whereas LePage participated in welfare reform discussions on the highest ranges, he by no means landed the place he sought overseeing nationwide reform. So he set his sights on the Millennium Problem Corp. job. His pitch cited his conservative credentials as a “funds hawk” and his earlier expertise as a retail retailer supervisor and “turnaround specialist” within the pulp and paper business.
He highlighted his fluency in French and his journey historical past as governor – to Morocco, China, Colombia, Japan, Iceland, Finland, Canada and different nations. He additionally returned to his 2014 reelection, once more stressing that he obtained essentially the most votes of any governor in Maine historical past.
On the time, LePage was engaged in an more and more public battle with Legal professional Common Mills, who was in search of the Democratic nomination for governor and becoming a member of nationwide lawsuits opposing Trump’s immigration insurance policies.
LePage supported each Trump’s journey ban on folks from Muslim-majority nations and his efforts to finish Deferred Motion for Childhood Arrivals, a program that removes the specter of deportation for individuals who had been dropped at the nation illegally as youngsters.
Data from the LePage administration spotlight the governor’s early opposition to this system, created by President Barack Obama’s government order in 2012. LePage expressed an curiosity in a 2014 lawsuit filed by Greg Abbott, who was the Texas lawyer normal on the time, alleging that Obama had exceeded his government authority.
“I consider in government motion – however don’t consider that the President can act like an emperor,” LePage wrote on a post-it notice to workers. “Let’s be part of the lawsuit, I consider they’re overstepping.”
LePage additionally wished to ship a powerful message that Maine would adjust to Trump’s government order prohibiting folks from Muslim-majority nations from getting into the U.S.
In January of that yr, LePage was forwarded an e mail that the College of Southern of Maine despatched to its scholar physique, explaining the so-called journey ban and telling college students what assets had been obtainable to them.
LePage laid out his directives in a handwritten notice to an adviser.
“It’s essential that make it clear that the Univ. System should abide by immigration legal guidelines,” LePage wrote. “In the event that they fail they are going to really feel the brunt in there (sic) funds and litigation. Make sure you abide by the legal guidelines of the nation. P.”
LePage additionally wrote to Trump about different points, together with decreasing the consuming age to 18. That 2017 letter got here on the heels of the Maine Legislature overturning his veto of a invoice that raised the authorized smoking age to 21.
LePage strongly believed that somebody needs to be thought of an grownup on the age of 18 and wished the legal guidelines to be constant. He requested Trump to finish the follow of withholding freeway funds for states that decrease the consuming age to 18. If not, he stated, the minimal age to vote and serve within the navy needs to be raised to age 21.
LePage’s message to Trump was much like one he delivered to Republicans who voted to overturn his veto.
“If an individual is just not grownup sufficient to determine whether or not to purchase beer and cigarettes at age 18, then they definitely are usually not grownup sufficient to determine the right way to vote or go to conflict,” LePage wrote to Trump, including that he doesn’t encourage the usage of alcohol or tobacco. “If we are able to ship our younger adults to conflict at 18, then we should always at the very least permit them to purchase a beer.”
As time went on, LePage appeared to query why Trump was not appearing on any of the problems he raised. An undated letter, typed on paper that doesn’t embody the governor’s official letterhead, raises the prospect that Trump’s priorities had been being blocked from inside his personal administration.
“President Trump, I’ve submitted a number of requests to your administration which might be of important significance to the State of Maine, however they haven’t been acted upon,” LePage wrote. “I consider efforts by your Cupboard to help with these points are being thwarted by ‘deep state’ bureaucrats.”
His marketing campaign didn’t reply to a query about whether or not the letter was truly despatched.
Though he by no means landed a place within the administration and didn’t get his coverage priorities addressed by Trump, LePage regarded again wistfully on his two years of working with Trump and his administration. LePage expressed an ongoing curiosity in serving.
The day after Christmas in 2018 as LePage was making ready to go away workplace, he once more put pen to paper to jot down Trump. The unique draft of the letter was written on a Maine Army Authority pocket book and later typed up on official letterhead.
“As my time as governor winds down, I would like you to know what an honor and a privilege it has been to know you and work with you,” LePage wrote. “By no means in my life might I’ve imagined coming from the streets to grow to be a governor, culminating with assembly and dealing with an individual of your caliber. Thanks.”
LePage advised Trump that America is on the transfer and that the president is “making America nice once more,” a nod to Trump’s slogan. And he wished the president and his household a cheerful vacation.
“If ever I can serve you once more – simply name on me,” LePage stated.