“It’s a little bit unfair the way I’ve been treated and people who try to bribe me get off scot-free and then I tell the truth and I get demonized.”  

— Maine Gov. Paul LePage

AUGUSTA — A pair of state representatives who led the failed attempt to bring impeachment proceedings against Republican Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that the governor is lying about a meeting they had with him three years ago.

Rep. Jeff Evangelos, I-Friendship, and Rep. Ben Chipman, D-Portland, said LePage’s claim that they tried to “bribe” him is an outright fabrication and a clear retaliation for their efforts to see LePage put on trial in the state Senate.

“He’s fabricating a delusion that never happened,” Evangelos said.

Earlier this week and again Thursday, LePage said publicly that he kicked Evangelos and Chipman out of his office, along with former Rep. Joe Brooks, I-Winterport, after the trio attempted to “bribe” him.

A call to Brooks seeking comment Thursday was not immediately returned.

“This governor will pressure people, intimidate people, threaten people and when he doesn’t get his way he will retaliate, and right now he’s retaliating,” Chipman said.

During a live call-in talk show on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network on Thursday, LePage said the 52 House lawmakers who voted against a motion to indefinitely postpone a vote on an order that would have set in motion an investigation into whether LePage committed impeachable offenses were not Democrats but socialists. 

“The impeachment issue was an unfortunate thing because the Constitution calls for high crimes and misdemeanors, not just somebody’s vocabulary,” LePage said. “But those weren’t Democrats. There’s a big difference between a Democrat and a socialist and, unfortunately, we have a lot of socialists in Maine.”

Earlier in the same show, LePage used the word “bribe” in describing his exchange with Evangelos, Chipman and Brooks in 2013.

“It’s a little bit unfair the way I’ve been treated and people who try to bribe me get off scot-free and then I tell the truth and I get demonized,” LePage said. He went on to say he expected more of the same this year but he was also going to continue to take his case directly to Maine people in an ongoing series of town hall meetings around the state.

LePage said the town hall meetings seemed to be well-received and were an effective way to get voters to pressure the Legislature to action.

He said the top issues he wants to focus on in 2016 and for the remainder of his second term as governor are fighting the drug crisis, continuing his welfare reforms, lowering taxes and trying to lower the state’s high electricity costs.

Chipman and Evangelos said they were looking into whether they could possibly sue LePage for slandering them by saying they tried to bribe him.

“It’s slander,” Evangelos said. “It fits the definition of slander and he better be smart and issue an apology or we will take action.” 

Of the 2013 meeting, LePage said, “People came into my office and said, ‘If you do something for us we will support you,’ and I said, ‘Well, don’t bills have to stand on their own two feet?’ and they said, ‘Well, wink, wink, if you support us we will support you,’ and I said,  ‘Will you please get out of my office? ‘and I did, I threw them out. Because that’s not what I came to Augusta to do. I came to Augusta to work for the 1.3 million people of the state of Maine.”

Evangelos and Chipman said Thursday they never offered LePage any kind of bribe or even a promise to back him in exchange for support on their issue, but simply were advocating to keep state revenue-sharing with local municipalities in place and were arguing against additional tax cuts for Maine’s wealthiest wage earners. 

Evangelos and Chipman also said they were never kicked out of LePage’s office, that it was the governor who stormed out of his Cabinet Room and into his office after he pounded his fists on the desk and swore at the lawmakers.

“None of it happened,” Evangelos said. “He called us names, he swore at us, and he ran out of the room and slammed the door.”

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