AUSTIN, Texas — In a brief press conference at the Capitol this afternoon, Texas Governor Rick Perry responded to the indictment issued against him by a Travis County grand jury Friday. The governor was confident and optimistic, but also revealed irritation and frustration at what he characterized as politically motivated attacks on him and his office. Perry delivered a prepared statement and then answered a few questions from the press.
As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, the indictment alleges that Perry abused his power as governor when he threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit, an anti-corruption division under the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, after Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney, was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Lehmberg had a reported blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit and was so highly agitated after her arrest, threatening officers and demanding special treatment, that she ended up restrained in handcuffs, leg irons, strapped into a chair and wearing a “spit mask.”
Perry began the press conference stating that, as governor, he “took an oath to faithfully uphold the Constitution of Texas,” and that that constitutional authority included the power to veto items and make decisions regarding funding at his discretion, asserting his power to act as he had done after every legislative session during his time as governor.
Specifically regarding the veto of funding for the Public Integrity Unit, Perry characterized his decision as the result of the leadership of that office losing public confidence, and he reaffirmed that he “wholeheartedly and unequivocally” stood behind his veto, and, if given the chance to make the decision today, he would make the exact same decision. Perry emphasized that Lehmberg had been “abusive to law enforcement,” and that in his role as governor, she was not the type of individual who should be heading an agency charged with protecting the public trust.
The governor’s voice increased in volume when addressing what he characterized as the political motivation behind the indictments. “We don’t settle political differences with indictments in this country,” he said. “[These indictments are] outrageous…nothing more than an abuse of power.”
“I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win,” add Perry. “I’ll explore every legal avenue to expedite this matter. I am confident that we will ultimately prevail, that this farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is, and those responsible will be held accountable.”
In a brief question and answer session after his prepared statement, Perry was asked if using the veto of funding to attempt to get Lehmberg to resign was an improper threat, a charge which he immediately rejected, again citing the broad constitutional authority granted to the governor of Texas to veto funding items.
“I’m going to continue to do my job,” concluded Perry. “We have a border [that] is not secure, because of what the federal government failed to do.” Perry mentioned that this week he had met with the mother of the border patrol agent who was killed, and that mother was counting on him to do his job as governor of Texas.
“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.”
Breitbart Texas is continuing to monitor this story.
Sarah Elizabeth Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.