Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) vowed Monday to “fight with everything I have” against his indictment by a grand jury, which he and his supporters are labeling an abuse of the court system for political gain.
A Texas grand jury on Friday indicted the potential 2016 presidential hopeful on two felony counts: coercion of a public official and abuse of official capacity. The charges relate to his veto of funding for public corruption prosecutors in the state, which critics have alleged was intended to pressure a local district attorney to resign.
Perry called for the resignation of District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, after she was arrested and pleaded guilty in April 2013 to drunken driving.
The indictment has drawn criticism from members of both parties, however, and Perry has repeatedly defended the veto. During a Monday press conference, Perry’s legal team screened a video of Lehmberg visibly drunk during her arrest, slurring her speech and pointing at the camera, as evidence he made the right choice.
Perry and his legal team framed the indictment as politically motivated, with the governor calling his veto “a lawful action as my executive authority as the governor.”
“No one is questioning that of any substance,” he asserted.
During a Monday press conference, Perry attorney Tony Buzbee called it “nothing more than Banana Republic politics.” Buzbee said Texas taxpayers will pay for a portion of the governor's defense.
“This is much larger than just Governor Perry,” he said. “We don’t settle political differences in the United States and in Texas in the criminal courts,” but rather “at the ballot box,” he added.
Newly added Perry defense attorney Ben Ginsberg, who led the 2000 Bush recount effort and was a top counsel to Mitt Romney's presidential bids, called the indictment "a tearing in the fabric of democracy."
Ginsberg said the indictment has been "so far over the top" even Democrats have questioned its validity, pointing to skepticism from Obama adviser David Axelrod, Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, election law expert Rick Hasen and former Clinton White House counsel Lanny Davis.
The governor alleged that his defense materials in the case were never even delivered to the grand jury room, and special prosecutor Michael McCrum largely directed the outcome of the case. Local reports have characterized McCrum as a respected and nonpartisan figure in Texas, however.
Democrats did seize on the news to attack the governor, and Perry said the timing of the indictment — as the parties prepare their final midterm campaign pushes and Perry plans to be active on the trail for GOP candidates — was “suspect, to say the least.”
“The really hard-core left, they're not above sinking somebody’s personal and political lives to block someone being engaged” on the campaign trail, the governor said.
—Jessica Taylor contributed.