AUSTIN, Texas — This morning, a conference call was organized with the legal team representing Texas Governor Rick Perry regarding the indictments against him for his veto of the funding for the Public Integrity Unit (the PIU) after Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office oversees the PIU, was arrested and pled guilty to DWI.
As previously reported by Breitbart Texas, Perry has assembled an all-star legal team of both Texas and Washington, D.C. attorneys, including Houston trial attorney Tony Buzbee, Austin criminal defense attorney David Botsford, former Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Tom Phillips, D.C.-based criminal attorney and George H.W. Bush election team member Bobby Birchfield, and Ben Ginsburg, a partner at the Washington, D.C. office of Jones Day with experience on the Bush-Cheney election team and the Bush 2000 recount litigation.
The conference call was introduced by Lucy Nashed, Perry’s press secretary, with Buzbee and Ginsburg participating. Buzbee spoke first, addressing the accusations by Democrats that Perry’s veto was motivated by something other than Lehmberg’s conduct–specifically, the investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). Texas Democratic Party Executive Director, Will Hailer, is among those who have made the accusation that Perry had committed some sort of wrongdoing related to CPRIT and vetoed the PIU funding as an attempted cover up.
Buzbee read an affidavit that they will file later today from Chris Waller, who was previously employed as a criminal investigator at the PIU. Waller had the primary responsibility for the CPRIT investigation and was directly involved with interviewing witnesses, issuing subpoenas, and reviewing the evidence gathered.
Waller’s affidavit explicitly debunks any allegations that Perry was implicated in wrongdoing in the CPRIT investigation or that his veto of the PIU funding could have possibly been motivated by a desire to protect himself from that investigation.
From the affidavit:
“At no time in [the] CPRIT investigation was Governor Rick Perry or anyone from the Governor’s office a target. At no time did I ever obtain evidence that suggested any wrongdoing on behalf of Governor Rick Perry or the Governor’s office. At no time did the evidence that I obtained as investigator ever suggest any wrongdoing on the part of any appointed Board Member of CPRIT. Any suggestion that Governor Rick Perry or anyone ever associated with him was being investigated is untrue; and, based on my investigation, there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever that suggests wrongdoing on the part of any individual other than the individual ultimately indicted by a grand jury [in the CPRIT investigation].”
Waller’s affidavit also stated that Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor appointed to Perry’s case, had interviewed him. “I made it clear to him,” Waller told McCrum, “that there was absolutely no evidence even suggesting wrongdoing on the part of Governor Perry and in no uncertain terms that, after a lengthy investigation, no evidence was found to suggest wrongdoing on the part of the Governor, the Governor’s office, nor any Board Member of CPRIT.”
Ginsburg characterized the CPRIT issue as a “red herring” by the Democrats, nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor designed to bolster an otherwise inadequate indictment.
The lawyers also pointed out key dates in the timeline for this case. On December 6, 2013, the Travis County DA put out a press release saying that they had conducted a significant and thorough investigation into CPRIT, and that it was now concluded with only the one individual indicted. The grand jury in Perry’s case would not meet for the first time until the following spring, and issued the indictments last week, over ten months after the CPRIT investigation had been officially concluded.
There was then a brief question and answer period that covered a few different topics. Waller is currently employed at another state agency, but Buzbee was not certain which one.
When asked if they planned to file a motion to dismiss, Buzbee declined to answer, saying that they will release pleadings as they are filed but would not reveal their legal strategy ahead of time.
They were asked if McCrum, the special prosecutor, had turned over any evidence to them yet. The response was no, not yet, but it was very early in the process.
Regarding Perry’s legal defense fees, apparently arrangements have been made so that taxpayer funds will not be needed, but it was not completely clear what those arrangements exactly are and the attorneys declined to specify. Breitbart Texas requested clarification from the Governor’s office, and was told that campaign funds would be used. “This is an assault on the Constitution, and we don’t want it to be an assault on the taxpayers as well,” wrote Nashed in an email.
[Disclosure: The Jones Day law firm is representing the author of this article in an unrelated matter, Halbig v. Burwell, but she is not represented by Mr. Ginsburg.]
Sarah Elizabeth Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.