WATERVILLE — The chairman of the Waterville Republican Committee says he doesn’t know who posted a message recently on the committee’s Facebook page that falsely suggested Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election while also downplaying the Jan. 6 deadly rampage on the U.S. Capitol and listing a string of conspiracy-theorist grievances.

A member of that committee posted the message on the party’s Facebook page on Saturday, Jan. 9, and it was later removed, according to Chairman Shaun Caron, who says he does not know who posted it.

A screenshot of the Waterville Republican Committee Facebook post that was later taken down, before the entire page was removed. Facebook screenshot

Asked how many members there are on the Waterville Republican Committee and who they are, Caron responded via Facebook Messenger: “I will run your question by the Members until I get permission I do not feel comfortable disclosing that information with political tensions the way they are. My top priority is the safety of our members.”

The post came amid heightened tensions across the nation, as fears of further violence hang over next week’s inauguration for President-elect Joe Biden. The U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump for the second time on Wednesday, finding that he did egg on the violent mob that stormed the Capitol to threaten the safety of Vice President Mike Pence and members of Congress.

In a speech at a “Stop the steal” rally just prior to the siege, which left five people dead, Trump called on his supporters to “fight” against the election certification taking place that moment in the halls of Congress while lying to his supporters that Pence had the authority to overturn the results in his favor.

The Waterville committee’s post, first reported by alternative magazine Mainer, falsely said that “what happened in Washington this week was not a violent insurrection,” suggesting the deadly siege “was not worse” than other unrelated protests, acts of violence or death.

Accompanied by two pictures labeled “American Spring,” and “It’s in your blood,” which depict someone holding a Confederate flag, the committee’s post  Jan. 9 said, “REMEMBER: The American people won this election. What you are witnessing is the most blatant fraud and coup ever seen.”

The post then went to list a number of grievances associated with conspiracy theorists and other fringe groups.

“After eight months of legalized riots, looting, and murder by BLM (Black Lives Matter) and their associated storm troopers they want you locked down, out of work, buying their products, eating their processed and poisoned food, and brainwashed in their schools. They want you scared, compliant, obedient. They want you masked and vaccinated, and eventually microchipped and managed like software. If you don’t comply, they want you fired from your job, alienated from your friends and family, and socially erased. The one thing they don’t want — ever — is for the mass awakening to their nefarious scheme to continue.”

Caron, though, continues to claim that Trump won the election.

“As of the last meeting we had, yes, we (were) standing with Trump. This will be something we discuss during the next meeting this month,” he wrote.

He said anyone on the Waterville Republican Committee had the ability to post the message Jan. 9 on the organization’s Facebook page prior to the page’s having been removed. He said he thinks a committee member probably screen-shot the post from another Republican group’s Facebook page and posted it on the Waterville committee’s page.

While the Facebook page itself also has since been taken down, Caron declined to say if Facebook or the committee removed the page.

“I have an email out to Facebook to discuss our situation, until I’ve heard back from them I really don’t want to say what we’re dealing with,” Caron said late Thursday via Facebook messenger, responding to a request for comment.

Asked if the committee has a new social media venue, Caron responded: “As of this point, we no longer have social media. We will be contacting our members by email now.”

Caron encouraged readers in a message he posted on his personal Facebook page Thursday not to attend any rallies planned this weekend. Security will be beefed up around the State House and other government buildings in Augusta this weekend amid armed protest rallies scheduled across the nation following the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“Ok, my Patriotic Friends,” Caron’s post stated. “There’s a rumor going around about a rally in Augusta Maine on or around the 20th no Patriot Movement or Organization has put anything out about anything like this! I have spoken to our Friends who organize these things and they have no idea about a rally! DO NOT GO IT MAY BE A SET UP OF SOME SORT! I will update this soon I’m investigating into this!”

Waterville Mayor Jay Coelho said he was tagged in a social media post referring to the Waterville Republican Committee’s Facebook post Jan. 9 about the presidential election and rampage on the U.S. Capitol. Coelho asked the Maine Republican Party if it held the same stance as the Waterville Republican Committee, but did not get a response and didn’t expect to, he said.

Coelho, a Democrat, said he tries not to pay attention to such posts and doesn’t share the view that President Trump actually won the election.

“That’s not what Congress says,” Coelho said in a phone interview. “Congress tells me Joe Biden is the new president. It’s just conspiracy nonsense. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want to direct attention to nonsense. States have done their thing, the Supreme Court has done its thing.”

Coelho, who said he voted for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen for president, took office as mayor Jan. 5 after having been elected in November. Former Mayor Nick Isgro, a Republican, did not seek reelection after two terms. Isgro’s term as vice chairman of the Maine Republican Party ends Saturday when new elections are held. He said he is not running for office.

Asked Thursday in an email if the Maine Republican Party shares the same opinion the Waterville Republican Party posted Jan. 9 on its Facebook page, Jason Savage, executive director of the Maine Republican Party, responded: “The Maine Republican Party officially spoke out against the violence and storming of the capital at the time it happened.”

Savage accompanied his statement with a Twitter message the Maine Republican Party posted while the U.S. Capitol rampage was taking place Jan. 6:

“We believe in peaceful protest. The activity seen at the United States Capitol today is completely unacceptable and an affront to our Republican values. Republicans believe in law and order, our constitution, and our country, not rioting and violence.”

Savage said in his email that he was asked about the issue Thursday morning in an interview with WGAN radio and his answer more accurately characterizes the Maine GOP’s general position. Savage said in that radio interview that he doesn’t believe Trump incited the violence at the Capitol Jan. 6 and that a peaceful transfer of power has to occur to keep “America the greatest country in the world.”

“If the country is going to start deciding who our leader is based on who can put the most people committing violence in that building,” Savage said, “then we’re no better than Libya or Iraq.”

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