From nearly the moment Texas Governor Rick Perry lost his composure, his talking points, and pretty much every thought in his brain during a make or break GOP presidential debate in 2011, the Republican has reset his focus on trying to win the 2016 nomination instead. Now, that achievement may already be out of reach, too.
Perry has just been indicted.
According to multiple media sources, the Texas Governor has been indicted by a grand jury over accusations that he attempted to strong-arm a District Attorney General into resigning her position. Perry is accused “of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant” after threatening to veto funding to a project being run out of the DA’s office, which was seen as a punishment for her refusal to resign after a drunk driving incident for which she served a 45 day sentence.
The governor himself seems to be blowing off the indictment as no big deal. “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,” he told Fox News.
Perry’s supporters are agreeing, and have called the allegations and the indictment a witch-hunt to try to personally damage the Texas leader. “Unfortunately, there has been a sad history of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office engaging in politically-motivated prosecutions, and this latest indictment of the governor is extremely questionable. The Texas Constitution gives the governor the power to veto legislation, and a criminal indictment predicated on the exercise of his constitutional authority is, on its face, highly suspect,” said Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
Louisiana Republican Governor Bobby Jindal agreed, stating: ”I stand behind Governor Perry in his fight for honest government and I am certain he will prevail in this partisan suit…Governor Perry exercised his constitutional authority and this circus is simply a political witch-hunt. The lawsuit against Governor Perry is a blatant misuse of the judicial system by liberal activists who couldn’t defeat him at the polls.”
What’s more, some major Democrats are apparently calling the whole thing overblown, too. “Based on the charges laid out in the indictment, though, even liberals quickly became skeptical,” writes the Economist. “David Axelrod, a former advisor to Barack Obama, tweeted that it seemed ‘sketchy.’ ‘Unbelievably ridiculous,’ wrote Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine. To Ari Melber at MSNBC, the indictment looked ‘very weak.’”
Is the prosecutor in the Perry indictment really just looking to smear a high ranking Republican? Not so likely, says the Houston Chronicle. “People who know [Special Prosecutor Michael] McCrum said he is not the type to use a case to play politics. San Antonio defense attorney Patrick Hancock said McCrum is known for spelling out just the facts in court, while Alan Brown said McCrum does not care for politics and tries to steer clear of courthouse politics,” writes Drew Joseph. “Brian Wice, who is representing former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, in his appeal of money-laundering and conspiracy charges, looked askance at the indictment. But he simultaneously spoke highly of McCrum, saying he had ‘the utmost respect’ for him.”
While Republicans throw about accusations of political payback, or liberal bias, one thing that is clear is that even if the indictment against Perry does stick, that isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. After all, he’s going to be fighting for the nomination against a number of GOPers who have faced their own corruption issues, such as New Jersey’s Chris Christie or Wisconsin’s Scott Walker.
In fact the nomination may end up falling to whatever candidate isn’t in jail by the time the caucuses come about.
While Perry’s own political future is on hold, one person stepping cautiously around the issue is his own Lieutenant Governor, and potential successor, Greg Abbott. When it comes to publicly stating whether he believes the indictment is a political ploy or the right call legally, he’s remarkably cautious to take a stand in either direction. His sole public response? “I don’t know what to think of it.”
If anything should make it clear that this indictment might have standing power, Abbott’s refusal to take a side should be it.
Can Perry clear this all up before the 2016 election really gets under way? If not, I guess it’s never too soon to start planning for 2020.
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