Poor, persecuted Gov. Rick Perry. "Partisan political theatrics" and "abuse of power" sound so bad. Outrageous, even. Inquiring minds want to know: Who is the evil, partisan special prosecutor who decided to go after this valiant defender of the Texas constitution?
Naturally, Perry and his fellow Republicans are calling the indictments against Perry the result of a partisan investigation by an office controlled by Democrats — the same office that prosecuted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Republican, later acquitted on appeal.Oops. And, by the way, Perry was indicted by a grand jury.
But Lehmberg and other Travis County officials recused themselves from the case and are not prosecuting it. One year ago a Republican judge from Bexar County, Bert Richardson, appointed a special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, to handle the prosecution.
McCrum, a criminal defense attorney in San Antonio, is a former Dallas police officer who began his career as a federal prosecutor during the George H.W. Bush administration, according to his online bio. In 2009, the state's two Republican U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, recommended him to become U.S. attorney for the Western District, according to published reports.
10:50 PM PT: For those wanting more details, an informative article was published late Saturday: Inside the Grand Jury: Why Texas Governor Rick Perry Was Charged with Two Alleged Felonies:
In its first felony charge, the grand jury alleged that Perry abused his official authority as related to Perry’s vetoing the funding for the anti-government unit. (The indictment can be read in its entirety here.)
The second charge related to coercion of a public official, which, as McCrum explained, involved Perry “threatening Rosemary Lembergh in her capacity as a public servant to resign or otherwise he would veto” funding for her Public Integrity Unit.
Had Perry simply vetoed funding for the anti-corruption unit, he probably wouldn’t be facing criminal charges today. But before the veto, Perry, through intermediaries, said he would not veto the funds if Lehmberg resigned. After the veto, he then offered to restore the funding if she resigned from office. Sources close to the investigation say that the Travis County grand jury, which indicted Perry, heard testimony from at least four of Perry’s senior aides. They allegedly described to the grand jury Perry’s strategy to remove Lehmberg. Two other people testified in detail about how they had served as intermediaries in an effort to convince Lehmberg to leave.
Sun Aug 17, 2014 at 7:57 AM PT: Apparently, it's quite easy to opine on these charges without bothering to read the fact that this special prosecutor was appointed by a Republican judge and was recommended for U.S. Attorney by Sen. Cornyn and Sen. Hutchinson, who are both Republicans.
It also appears to be rather convenient to focus solely on whether or not the veto constitutes abuse of power while ignoring the coercion of an elected public official that occurred both before and after the veto.
Case in point from Dershowitz 'Outraged' by Perry Indictment:
In such [totalitarian] countries, "if you don't like them, you indict," Dershowitz said. "In America, you vote against them...this should be up to the voters. There is no room in America for abuse of office charges, and this has to stop once and for all. This is a serious problem."Dershowitz' outrage is quite selective as he conveniently ignores that the DA also holds elected office. By his own standard, voters, not Rick Perry, should be allowed to decide whether or not she should remain in office.
These post-veto enticements cast a pall over Perry’s earlier actions, including the veto. And Lehmberg’s troubles are irrelevant to the criminal case against Perry. Coercion and abuse of office don’t become angelic acts because their target seems vulnerable. Perry’s PR campaign will get him nowhere in the courtroom.
Perry said he stood for the “rule of law,” but the rule of law does not grant a governor the power to offer things of value or avoidance of powerful pain in return for an elected official’s resignation or other action. To condone such behavior would create chaos at all levels of government. It is shameful for Perry, his lawyer or his allies to suggest that a response to his actions is an “abuse of power” or criminalizes politics.
Credible legal experts have said they think the prosecution will have a difficult time securing a conviction. However, none of us is privy to the evidence and testimony presented to the grand jury. According to Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, McCrum said he “interviewed more than 40 people, reviewed hundreds of documents and read many dozens of cases.” Fikac and other reporters who staked out the courthouse long before the national press spent five minutes reading the indictment watched “current and former Perry staffers, Travis County employees and state lawmakers” entering the grand jury room over the summer.
It is possible that McCrum has gathered more information on Perry’s motives that will come to light later. Although the indictment doesn’t mention it, the Public Integrity Unit is investigating a scandal involving the $3 billion Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a fund close to the governor’s office that suffered from cronyism and lax oversight. The Public Integrity Unit indicted one CPRIT official in December for deceiving his colleagues and awarding an $11 million grant to a Dallas biotech firm without a proper vetting.
What else, if anything, did McCrum turn up in his interviews and document search? At this point, we just don’t know.
This doesn’t make for explosive headlines but the fact is, we’re just going to have to wait and see how the case unfolds.