Gov. Rick Perry's legal team made their debut yesterday in a press conference. The collective of high-profile lawyers – which includes alums of the 2000 Bush-Gore recount lawsuit, a multi-jurisdictional workers’ rights case against BP and a former Texas Supreme Court Justice – came out defending the governor’s veto of funding to the state’s Public Integrity Unit.
The team also continued to focus attention away from the two felony charges he faces, insisting that Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg deserved to be removed from office after her arrest and conviction on drunken driving charges, and that the governor was acting in the state’s best interest.
The press conference started with a video montage of the Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s 2013 arrest. It showed her yelling at police, slurring her speech, making faces and culminated in her pointing a finger like a gun at the deputy taking the video. Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee is heading up the Perry legal team.
“That individual was responsible for $7.5 million of state taxpayer moneys. Governor Perry, as the Governor, is responsible to ensure that those moneys are spent wisely and are overseen by his office,” Buzbee said. “And that’s why he vetoed that line item of $7.5 million dollars.”
The special prosecutor leading the investigation, and Texas Democratic Party executive director Will Hailer, both say Lehmberg’s conviction for drunken driving is irrelevant. That’s because the indictments focus on the Governor’s threat to veto funds, unless Lehmberg resigned.
“The governor made a political decision to go after the DA’s office, the Public Integrity Unit’s office,” Hailer said. “This is a fight that they have had long before her incident. This is a fight that goes back to at least 2005.”
Perry’s lawyers, of course, see it another way. During Monday’s press conference, the legal team hammered the idea that Governor Perry was within his constitutional rights to veto the funding for the Public Integrity Unit, the legal team that polices corruption in state agencies and lawmakers. Perry lawyer Ben Ginsberg said the governor never said why he was vetoing the funding before he officially made the veto.
“But in a hypothetical, if the governor did say, 'Here’s why I’m going to veto a bill,' that actually is transparency in government, [which] you guys are all supposed to be for,” Ginsberg said as the conference wound down.
Gov. Perry will be arraigned this Friday. While it’s unlikely that he’ll attend, it is when he’ll enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.