May 1, 2017 / 9:39 PM / 3 years ago

Maine governor sues state's attorney general in Trump policy tussle

(Please note: Story contains strong language in final paragraph)

FILE PHOTO - Maine Governor Paul LePage speaks at the 23rd Annual Energy Trade & Technology Conference in Boston, Massachusetts, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/Gretchen Ertl/File Photo

(Reuters) - Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage on Monday sued the state’s Democratic attorney general, contending she had abused her power by joining legal opposition to early moves by President Donald Trump that LePage’s office supported.

LePage, a fiery conservative now in his second term, challenged Attorney General Janet Mills for joining a legal brief opposing Trump’s executive order banning immigration from a half-dozen majority Muslim countries.

The governor said he supported Trump’s order, which has been blocked by courts and which the White House says is necessary to protect national security.

“It is no secret that Attorney General Mills and I have differing political views, but that is not the issue,” LePage said in a statement. “The problem is she has publicly denounced court cases which the executive branch has requested to join and subsequently refuses to provide legal representation for the state.”

He said Mills had refused to represent the state in other cases where she disagreed with LePage’s political position and prevented his office from filing its own brief in support of Trump, a charge that Mills denied.

“Instead of signing onto another party’s brief at no cost to the taxpayers, however, or hiring a lawyer to draft his own brief, the governor has wasted state resources by hiring a lawyer to file a frivolous lawsuit, complaining that he cannot do exactly what we have told him he can do,” Mills said in a statement.

Maine is the only one of the 50 U.S. states where the attorney general is elected by the state legislature, rather than elected by voters or appointed by the governor.

The nation’s 22 Democratic attorneys general emerged in the first months of the Trump administration as a major opposition force to his policies, successfully suing to block his executive orders on travel and also challenging environmental policy moves.

Maine is one of eight U.S. states that have a Republican governor and a Democratic attorney general, setting the stage for the conflict that resulted in Monday’s lawsuit, filed in Kennebec County Superior Court.

LePage was first elected to office in 2010 on a wave of Tea Party support and was re-elected in 2014. Both victories came in three-way races.

He was an early supporter of Trump and came under intense public pressure last year after calling a Democratic lawmaker a “little son-of-a-bitch, socialist cocksucker,” in a voicemail message that was widely circulated.

Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; editing by Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Oatis

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