Good morning from Portland, but political eyes are further south of Maine to Washington, D.C., where Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump met with his party’s members of Congress on Thursday.
Those meetings were a bit uncomfortable, according to The Washington Post.
With senators, Trump had confrontations with Jeff Flake of Arizona and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, both of whom have criticized him. With the House caucus, Trump misstated the number of articles to the constitution and pleaded with members to “say great things” about him afterward.
Naturally, we wondered what the two Republicans in Maine’s congressional delegation — Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Bruce Poliquin of the 2nd District — thought about this. Neither have formally endorsed Trump.
That’s where it gets cagy. Poliquin’s political adviser, Brent Littlefield, refused to directly answer a question on whether or not the congressman was even at the meeting, referring a reporter to a noncommittal statement from May.
Luckily, we usually get basic questions about prominent politicians answered, one way or the other. Roll Call reporter Simone Pathe said Poliquin was spotted entering and exiting the Capitol Hill Club, where the meeting took place.
Contrast that with Collins, whose spokeswoman, Annie Clark, quickly responded with a message saying the senator went to the meeting. However, Collins wasn’t available for interview on Thursday and Clark didn’t elaborate.
Collins has often addressed the controversial nominee, saying in May she could support Trump if he acts more presidential and stops with the “gratuitous personal insults.”
But Poliquin has gone into contortions to avoid any public discussion of Trump. In March, he ignored a POLITICO reporter’s question on Trump. His May statement praised Trump’s trade stances and his status as a “job creator.”
He has addressed Trump behind closed doors. In May, an audiotape was leaked of Poliquin telling a conservative group that Trump will win in November because Americans are fearful of social change and economic futures.
He said Trump’s “not a policy person,” admitting that he doesn’t know what “half” the candidate’s policies are. But he sensed an opportunity for House Republicans, saying that Trump would leave policymaking to them.
Poliquin went on WGAN on Thursday. When host Ken Altshuler mentioned Trump, the congressman pivoted, saying “I’ll tell you, let’s talk about this, fellas, if you don’t mind” before discussing a tariff ruling aiding a Mechanic Falls manufacturer.
All of this evasiveness could be because of the freshman’s 2016 rematch against Democrat Emily Cain, which promises to be one of the bigger House races nationwide this year. He’ll try to keep the focus on bipartisan action, not national events.
Democrats have ramped up their messaging against him, with Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett saying in a Thursday statement that Poliquin is “so dedicated to deceiving Mainers that he won’t even admit to being at an event that a reporter caught him leaving.”
But Poliquin’s tack hasn’t changed, so we don’t expect it to now. It’ll be a question of how much more awkward this evasion will get. — Michael Shepherd
- A majority of the Legislature’s environment committee wrote a letter raising questions about the state permitting process for a proposed $69 million waste-to-energy facility in Hampden. The Tuesday letter says the plant doesn’t follow Maine’s waste hierarchy and that Maryland-based Fiberight LLC and the Municipal Review Committee haven’t demonstrated access to funds necessary to build and operate it.
- U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree spoke out against Republican threats to punish Democrats who held a June sit-in on the House floor in a bid to force gun control votes. “I’m proud of what my colleagues and I did,” the Democrat from Maine’s 1st District said on Thursday, “and if that’s what it takes to get us a vote on bipartisan, common-sense laws to prevent gun violences, I hope we’ll do it again.”
- A group representing infectious disease doctors and scientists endorsed a bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Angus King aimed at fighting the Zika virus. On Thursday, the Infectious Diseases Society of America called the SMASH Act “a positive step towards adequately preparing for and responding to mosquito-borne diseases.” — Michael Shepherd
- Snipers kill five Dallas police during protest over black shootings — Lisa Maria Garza, Reuters
- Why LePage wants voters to know Janet Mills is suing him — Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News
- FBI director pressed to justify closing Hillary Clinton email probe — Matt Zapotosky, The Washington Post
- Landline customers express confusion at FairPoint meeting in Bangor — Dawn Gagnon, BDN
- LePage rebuffs superintendents’ call for permanent education commissioner — Cousins
- Thirteen states ask court to halt transgender bathroom policy — Julia Harte, Reuters
- Westbrook is calling in an expert to track down the giant snake — Dan Macleod, BDN
Best of Maine’s Craigslist
- Mislaid at the mansion: A rabbit that bears a striking resemblance to the Playboy bunny, according to a picture, was found in Windham.
- 90 degrees of Bacon: “Cashier who looks like Kevin Bacon,” says a female shopper at Trader Joe’s in Portland, “your hot! I come through your line on purpose!” Here’s your soundtrack.
- Thanks for the clarity: “Looking for a female contractor who is experienced in building houses,” says a man in Auburn. “Not a sex post, just want to provide work opportunity.” I was expecting a sex post. Maybe I’ve been on Craigslist too long. — Michael Shepherd