Texas Governor Rick Perry firmly rejected criminal charges connected to his 2013 veto of state funding for a public corruption unit in the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, labeling the prosecution a “farce” and promising to defend himself vigorously.
“I cannot and I will not allow this to happen,” Perry said at a brief news conference at the State Capitol this afternoon.
“I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win,” he said.
The special prosecutor assigned to the case, Michael McCrum, has said any suggestion that politics are involved is “ridiculous” and “disappointing.”
“This case is all about the facts and the law, and nothing else,” McCrum told the San Antonio Express News.
Perry was charged with two felony counts Friday afternoon by a Travis County grand jury. A grand jury determines only whether there is probable cause to believe a person committed a crime.
The charges stem from Perry’s threat in 2013 to veto state funding for a unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office that investigates allegations of public corruption. Perry said today that he “whole heartedly and unequivocally” stands behind the decision because of DA Rosemary Lehmberg’s refusal to resign after she was arrested for DWI in April 2013 and later convicted.
Referring to the night of Lehmberg's arrest, Perry said today that she was “abusive to law enforcement” and conducted herself “in an incredibly inappropriate way.”
Video from the night of Lehmberg’s arrest shows her arguing with officers, resisting their efforts to restrain her and repeatedly urging them to “Call Greg,” a reference to Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton.
“The people of Travis County may have decided that that is the type of individual that they want in that office,” Perry said. “I said no.”
Texans for Public Justice, the group that originally filed the ethics complaint against Perry, said the issue was not the governor's authority to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit. Rather, the complaint accused Perry of coercion because of his threat to use the veto in an attempt to force Lehmberg out of office.
After taking questions, Perry quickly pivoted back to the influx of migrants through the U.S.-Mexico border, an issue that has raised his profile nationally as he considers a second attempt to win the Republican presidential nomination.
“We have a border that is not secure because of what the federal government has failed to do,” Perry said, shortly before leaving the Governor’s Press Conference Room.
Here is the prepared statement Governor Perry read before he answered questions from the media:
As governor, I took an oath to faithfully uphold the constitution of Texas, a pledge that I have kept every day as I've worked on behalf of Texans for the last 14 years. This same constitution clearly outlines the authority of any governor to veto items at his or her discretion. Just as I have following every legislative session during my service as governor, I exercised this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public's confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically.
I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto, and will continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor. We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution.
This indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and I cannot, and will not, allow that to happen. I intend to fight against those who would erode our state's constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win. I will explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter and bring it to a swift conclusion. I am confident we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is, and that those responsible will be held to account.