Texas governor Rick Perry came out swinging Sunday against felony abuse-of-power charges that could put him in prison for 100 years.
Speaking with Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream, Perry strongly defended his decision to withhold $7.5 million in state funds from the office of Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after Lehmberg, whose drunken antics following a DUI arrest had been featured in a public video, refused to step down.
A grand jury in heavily Democratic Austin last week charged Perry, a Republican who ran for president in 2012 and remains a 2016 presidential prospect, with abuse of his office. The charges have been met with pans across the political spectrum, however, with noted Perry opponents including Obama administration advisor David Axelrod, liberal columnist Tim Noah, and even ThinkProgress all voicing skepticism about the charges. Texas has a history of throwing heavy charges at prominent Republicans only to see those cases subsequently fall apart. Former congressman Tom DeLay was convicted of money laundering and conspiracy in 2010 but the conviction was overturned on appeal. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was charged in 1994 with misconduct related to her previous role as state treasurer, but the case was thrown out of court.
Perry has hit back by noting Lehmberg’s “abusiveness,” attacks on police, and need to be restrained during her time in the drunk tank.
“I very clearly, I very publicly said that as long as that individual was going to be running that agency — I had lost confidence in her, the public had lost confidence in her,” Perry said. “I did what every governor has done for decades, which is make a decision about whether it was a proper use of state money to go to that agency. And I vetoed it. That’s what the rule of law is really about, Shannon. And I stood up for the rule of law in the state of Texas. And if I had to do it again I would make exactly the same decision.”
Lehmberg’s drunk-driving arrest made headlines around Texas, and video of her behavior while being held has gotten national attention following the Perry indictment.