Perry has no regrets about veto; critic tells CNN that's not the point

Sunday, August 17, 2014 - 2:16pm

In a defiant interview on "Fox News Sunday," Gov. Rick Perry of Texas said again that despite a recent indictment, he wouldn't take back the veto threat that triggered the legal action. However, the leader of a Texas watchdog group told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday saying the veto isn't the issue.

It's a complicated case with long-term political implications. On Friday, Perry was indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts related to his efforts to try and force a Democratic district attorney to resign after a DWI.

According to Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor in the case, the indictment alleges that the circumstances around Perry's veto threat amounted to a misuse of state money earmarked by the Legislature to fund the public integrity unit in Travis County run by Rosemary Lehmberg.

The second charge alleges that he improperly used the veto threat to get her to resign following her arrest on a drunken driving charge. She stayed in office.

"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," Perry said.

Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice, however, said on "State of the Union" the central issue isn't the veto but rather the idea that a governor would decide that Lehmberg must resign.

"The governor is doing a pretty good job to try to make this about [Lehmberg] and her DWI conviction," McDonald. "But this has never been about his veto of her budget and about her. This is about his abuse of power and his coercion trying to get another public citizen to give up their job."

Perry claims that his opponents are playing politics, referring to the indictment as "a farce of a prosecution."

"It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution," Perry said Saturday. "This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power, and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen."

McDonald flatly denied that.

"Well, we have filed criminal complaints against politicians of both parties over the 16 years we've been in business," McDonald said.

"No politician in the prosecutor's office or the judicial system in Travis County has laid a hand on this. Our complaint went to the chief Republican judge, head of this judicial district, a Republican appointee of Gov. Perry's. He turned it over and appointed a special judge, again, a Republican from San Antonio to oversee the matter. That Republican judge appointed a special prosecutor because he thought the case had that merit."

If Perry is convicted, he could face a maximum of 99 years in jail. However, McDonald declined to weigh in on any sort of punishment.

"I don't know what penalty it deserves," McDonald said. "He does deserve to be held accountable. He clearly in our minds and apparently the minds of other Republican jurists looks like he broke the law. He needs to be held accountable for that."

- CNN's Mary Grace Lucas contributed to this report.

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