AUSTIN, Texas – Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed Saturday to fight a criminal indictment in a defiant response that showed an old slice of swagger that he’s kept holstered lately while seeking to remake his image for a potential 2016 presidential run.
Perry called two felony counts of abuse of power issued by an Austin grand jury outrageous and made no apologies for his 2013 veto that prompted a criminal investigation against the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
Perry made it clear he will finish his term that ends in January and said it was the investigation against him – and not his actions – that amounted to an abuse of power. A Travis County grand jury on Friday indicted Perry for carrying out a threat to veto state funds to the local district attorney, an elected Democrat, who refused to resign after a drunken-driving arrest.
We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country, Perry told reporters outside his office in the Texas Capitol. It is outrageous that someone would use political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution.
Perry, the first Texas governor since 1917 to be indicted, dismissed the charges as nakedly political and said he would not hesitate to execute a veto under the same circumstances again.
The details of my decision-making were very clear. I said early on that I was going to clearly veto those dollars as long as they had someone in that office who I had lost confidence in, Perry said. And I had lost confidence.
Perry’s veto cut $7.5 million in funding to the state’s ethics watchdog housed in the Travis County district attorney’s office. A Texas state judge assigned a special prosecutor to investigate the veto after a formal complaint filed by a left-leaning watchdog group, which accused Perry of trying to leverage his power to force the resignation of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
That unit of public corruption investigators is based in Austin, a liberal haven in mostly conservative Texas.
Perry said he was confident that he would prevail and vowed that those responsible for this farce of a prosecution would be held accountable.